Volvo and FedEx successfully demonstrate truck platooning on North Carolina Expressway


Volvo Trucks North America, in collaboration with FedEx and the North Carolina Turnpike Authority (NCTA), has successfully demonstrated on-highway truck platooning on NC 540 (Triangle Expressway) as part of an ongoing research collaboration. 

Volvo has been working closely with delivery services company FedEx and NCTA to expand on-highway operations of Volvo’s Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control (CACC) on the Triangle Expressway. The latest trial marks the first public on-highway showcase of platooning technology between a major truck manufacturer and a transportation company in the USA.

The platoon consisted of three trained, professional truck drivers in Volvo VNL tractor units, each pulling double 28ft (8.5m) long trailers in convoy formation. Through CACC, a wireless vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology that is part of Volvo’s suite of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), the tractors and trailers remained in constant communication. 

During the trial, the tractors and trailers traveled at speeds of up to 62mph (100km/h) while keeping a time gap of 1.5 seconds, maintaining a closer distance than what is typical for on-highway tractors. Staged and unplanned vehicle cut-ins demonstrated how the technology handles common traffic situations. Since April, three Volvo VNL tractors have been paired with various combinations of FedEx trailers to simulate real-world routes and trailer loads while traveling on NC 540, as part of an ongoing research collaboration. 

The potential benefits of platooning include faster responses to hard braking, while maintaining safety and fuel efficiency. Drag accounts for up to 25% of a truck’s total fuel consumption, and the closer they can drive to each other, the greater the fuel-saving potential. Reducing the traveling distance between vehicles with V2V communications also allows for greater highway utilization, helping alleviate traffic congestion. 

Due to its proximity to Volvo Trucks’ North American headquarters and its US Department of Transportation (USDOT) designation as a proving ground for advanced vehicle technology, NC 540 is an excellent demonstration site for the platooning technology, providing invaluable insights for all parties.

The partners plan to continue developing the Volvo CACC technology on the route into the foreseeable future with the goal of continuing to learn about the potential benefits offered by platooning, and the regulatory requirements that will ultimately determine the commercial viability of the technology in the country. 

“We have long supported platooning because it benefits freight companies and professional drivers alike through safer, more fuel-efficient operations,” noted Per Carlsson, acting president of Volvo Trucks NA.

“We continue preparing for deployment of trucks with greater V2V communication capabilities that support higher levels of ADAS. We know these technologies will be part of our future, but exact timing depends on many things, namely regulations, infrastructure, safety standards, and market demand.” 

Keith Brandis, Volvo Trucks NA’s vice president for product planning, added, “Our technology is based on dedicated short-range communication (DSRC), which has proven its capability to perform well in the V2V environment. Dedicated bandwidth within the 5.9GHz spectrum is critical for the successful deployment of V2V application, like truck platooning.” 

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).