Is platooning trucks safe? Does it increase the risk of truck wrecks on highways? Truck platooning is becoming increasingly common. It involves two or more vehicles traveling at a distance of between 40-50 feet between them. Proponents claim that it increases fuel economy and decreases transportation costs. While the science supports these claims, the fact is that it the close proximity of vehicles traveling at highway speeds also increases the risk of large truck accidents.
Automation and Platooning
Many new technologies are in development that could make platooning more common. Currently, most truckers rely upon their own judgment to set speed and distance with the vehicles they platoon with. Current estimates are that 56% of all truck miles driven are "platoonable." Platooning is estimated to reduce fuel consumption for two-vehicle platoons by between 5-7.6%, and for three-vehicle platoons by up to 13%. This translates to significant savings for the operator. Over the next decade, it is estimated that platooning technology will become a standard feature on commercial motor vehicles.
It is these potential savings that are fueling investment in automated technologies. Widespread adoption of platooning technology could save operators millions of dollars per year. Currently, approximately 40% of all newly manufactured Class 8 trucks have forms of adaptive cruise control, cameras, sensors, and communications technologies that make platooning possible. Thus, while the potential and financial benefits are clear, what's less clear is the effect of platooning on public safety.
Do the Risks of Truck Wrecks Outweigh the Rewards?
A fully laden 18-wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 lbs. At highway speeds of 60 mph, it can take a semi-truck up to 450 feet to come to a complete stop. This is more than 140 feet longer than a typical passenger vehicle traveling at the same speed. It is also one of the reasons why current safe handling recommendations direct large-truck drivers to keep between 500-545 feet between their truck and any vehicles in front of them. Should the first truck in a platoon "slam the brakes" to avoid another motor vehicle or an obstruction in the roadway, it can create a chain-reaction accident that could involve all vehicles within the vicinity.
There is also the risk of "cut ins" where a passenger vehicle driver attempts to cut between the platoon. While they may only have 40-50 feet of clearance to do this, most passenger vehicles could easily fit between the trucks within a platoon. However, by doing so, a motorist would place themselves squarely in the driver's blind spot which can extend 20-30 feet in front of a semi-truck. Moreover, fully 29% of large truck accidents are caused by faulty brakes, and 23% are caused by traveling too fast for conditions which means that if something happens, there is a high likelihood that the truck driver would not be able to stop in time. Fortunately, data gathered by the Department of Transportation shows that most drivers don't take this risk when there is less than 75 feet between large-trucks.
Call in the Bull to help you clear the air after a large truck wrecks your journey. You can call us at 1-800-241-BRAD, or call us on or local line at 316-684-4400 to speak with an attorney. You can reach Brad Pistotnik on his cell at 316-706-5020. You can call Tony Atterbury on his cell at 316-617-9237. You can call from Western Kansas at 620-THE-BULL to discuss your options following a truck wreck.