Pack ’em, then stack ’em: the future of trucking, according to Volvo Trucks

March 30, 2020

John Bendel

|

Volvo Trucks has shown us the future.

In a spectacular promotion to introduce four truck models, Volvo placed an example of each model one on top of the other to create a truck stack 49-feet high. Then they placed Volvo Trucks President Roger Alm on top and drove the tidy truck pile – lights blazing – into a spooky night fog. Roger looks like a middle-age hood ornament with superpowers.

Volvoman?

Volvo Trucks President Roger Alm is featured in a promotional video to introduce four truck models.
Volvo Trucks President Roger Alm is featured in a promotional video to introduce four truck models.

Where is he taking that stack of trucks anyway? Not to North America. These models are for European and other markets. You won’t see them here, especially stacked four high. What a pity.

This Volvo concept could solve trucking’s most intractable problems.

The so-called driver “shortage” and parking, all while saving on fuel and maintenance. Take parking. Four trucks in a stack means three extra spaces at the truck stop.

It also means the end of the road for platooning. In a platoon, our four stacked trucks would all be on the highway, four diesels chugga-a-lugging fuel, dozens of tires wearing out, and the entire platoon taking up an enormous length of the roadway. A truck stack will have a much smaller footprint, and nobody is going to cut between the trucks in your stack.

For now, platoons require safety drivers to steer – at least if they can stay awake staring at the truck ahead of them. There’s no need at all to steer the upstairs trucks in a stack. Those units are driverless from day one.

But we can borrow one idea from platooning – connected controls. You can forget the expensive camera systems they’re designing for trucks today. A stack driver can work from the highest truck in the stack. Imagine the field of view from 49 feet.

We will need a new category of driver. Let’s call it stack driver. A stack driver will need special CDL endorsements – two-stack and three-stack endorsements to start. With some experience, maybe you can qualify as a four-stacker. Very prestigious.

Those endorsement won’t be easy to come by. In stack driver school you will learn new skills. For example, you will learn to master the art of taking curves really, really, really slow. No sudden stops or jackrabbit starts either. You will learn to avoid high winds and low clearances – any clearances at all, actually.

And wouldn’t it be great if Volvo could provide a Volvoman hood ornament for every stack?

Watch the Volvo Trucks video

More from Land Line’s John Bendel:

Pilot Flying J
John Bendel

John Bendel is Land Line’s contributing editor-at-large. A former trucker, former editor at National Lampoon, and longtime truck writer, John is an author, photographer, and freelancer for New York Times. There’s more, but in short, his insight and matchless style of writing makes “Gizmos and Gears” a runaway reader favorite.