Volvo platoon rolls with three LTL doubles

June 28, 2018

John Bendel


GREENSBORO, N.C. – Volvo Trucks North America staged a platooning demonstration in North Carolina Wednesday, June 27, using three Volvo VNL tractors pulling twin 28-foot pup trailers supplied by FedEx Freight.

The three units drove much of an 18-mile stretch of I-540 designated by the North Carolina DOT for testing of new automotive technologies – platooning included.

Volvo Trucks North America repeated the run a number of times to give all media and other invited attendees a chance to ride along in a truck or an accompanying SUV to observe. That piece of I-540 is a toll road called the Triangle Expressway and carried considerably less traffic than nearby nontoll roads at the time. Still, while traffic was light, the road was in public use.

The Volvo demonstration marked the first platooning demonstration using doubles.

Units changed lanes and mixed with other vehicles. The observation SUV cut between trucks in the platoon and so did unsuspecting private vehicles, particularly when merging onto the roadway. The platoons safely allowed the other vehicles in.

The platooning technology developed by Volvo wirelessly linked the three VNL tractors equipped with the company’s adaptive cruise control and emergency braking. Any application of the brakes by the lead truck was instantly echoed by the trucks following, maintaining steady distance between the combinations.

When a car or other vehicle cut into the platoon, sensors on a truck could “see” the vehicle and immediately slow to allow a safe distance, temporarily breaking the platoon. When the platooning trucks again had a clear lane between them, the platoon automatically reconnected. According to Volvo this automatic feature will work on a detached member held back as far as a half a mile from the platoon.

In addition to the media and Volvo people, the demonstration was attended by representatives of the North Carolina DOT, the North Carolina Turnpike Authority, and officials of FedEx Freight, including its new CEO John Smith. Smith spoke at the event as did Volvo Trucks Acting President Per Carlsson. Both stressed that platoon development was to enhance safety, not to replace drivers.