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Time for ‘truck Tindering’: a dating app for truck platoons

Recently, during a team day held by Deltalinqs – one of SmartPort’s founding fathers – I paid a visit to Maasvlakte Plaza. That may not sound particularly flashy: we’re basically talking about a large parking lot. But it’s incredibly important to have a guarded facility where truck drivers can stay overnight and talk with each other. Maasvlakte Plaza is located near the main road, which means drivers don’t have to make a detour. And they have access to a range of basic facilities for themselves and their vehicles. They can take a shower, eat and drink, or, expected to start in October this year, visit the on-site tyre maintenance centre and filling station if so required.

Everything has been perfectly arranged. In short, it is a safe place to lay over for drivers and their cargo. This trip to Maasvlakte Plaza was still in the back of my mind when I was watching the Tour de France the other day, and I became more and more convinced that we are on the right track with one of our current projects within SmartPort, namely ‘truck platooning’: driving trucks in an organised convoy from Maasvlakte 2 to the hinterland.

Michiel Jak, managing director of SmartPort

New modality
In truck platooning, the trucks follow each other in one or more platoons of three to five vehicles each – a new modality, you could say. A true ‘road train’. This has its advantages. Since the trucks drive at such a close distance from one another, according to calculations by TNO, they can save some 10 percent on their fuel consumption – and CO2 emissions. In addition, by travelling in a tight convoy, they move more smoothly through traffic – like a flock of birds. This improves traffic circulation on the motorway. And truck platooning is safer, since it actually removes most of the risk of human error. The routine chores are handled by a computer. Examples include staying in lane and maintaining the correct speed and distance. Drivers only have to intervene if things get tricky.

An added bonus is that platooning could eventually allow for changes to our driving hours legislation. Truck drivers have more opportunities to rest when they want to – not just when the tachograph tells them to. All in all, truck platooning can easily yield savings of approximately EUR 5,000 per truck per year. TNO is presently quantifying just how much safer truck platooning is, and to which extent this option could improve traffic circulation. We’ll know more after the summer.

Scale
Technically, organising trucks into a road train is feasible. The main issue now is economies of scale. You need to equip the trucks with a special device, and these come at a price. That’s why by 2020, we aim to have at least 100 truck platoons driving along the A15 motorway every day, comprising a minimum of 300 trucks and 600 containers. That’s when this technology starts paying off. Besides scale, another important precondition is a ‘dating app’. Drivers can use this app to exchange logistics data and arrange to drive in a convoy together. A digital application that can be realised with currently available data.

Which brings me back to Maasvlakte Plaza. Because what could be a more ideal location for truck drivers to ‘date’ than a site where 400 other drivers also park their vehicles? It’s a great place to set up a truck platoon. You exchange data via the app, fill up and hit the road with your colleagues.

Michiel Jak
Managing Director of SmartPort

SmartPort is an alliance formed by the Port of Rotterdam Authority, Deltalinqs and the Municipality of Rotterdam and Erasmus University Rotterdam and Delft University of Technology. This means that the foremost players in the Port of Rotterdam have joined forces with two leading, internationally renowned universities.

Comfort and safety: Maasvlakte Plaza offers all the mod cons for both drivers and vehicles. This large-scale truck stop has 357 parking spaces and can be accessed 24 hours a day.

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