Road transport is inspired by rail to consume less

Eco-combi, “platooning” or electric roads… The world of heavy goods vehicles is working on innovations that imitate the railway to better compete with it.

Carbon-free heavy goods vehicles, massified and requiring fewer drivers per tonne transported… This is what road transport manufacturers and research centers are working on. For the world of the truck, it is a question of appropriating the advantages of the train while preserving its own qualities of flexibility. In other words, imitate the railway to better compete with it.

Truck-trains have already existed for a long time in countries with large spaces – United States, Canada, Australia. These are the gigaliners or road trains: road monsters pulling three or four trailers, sometimes more. In Europe, slightly less giant sets called “eco-combi” – 32 meters long and more than 60 tonnes, all the same – are already used in Scandinavia, but also in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Manufacturers, such as DAF, or transporters, such as the German giant DB Schenker, are campaigning for the extension of the authorization for this solution in Europe (in France, heavy goods vehicles cannot exceed 18.75 meters and 44 tonnes), presenting it as a short-term and immediately available decarbonization option (−25% CO2 per ton).

But the eco-combi already seems to be in competition with “platooning”. These compact multi-truck platoons consist of a lead vehicle with its driver and follower vehicles that are virtually hooked to each other via a wireless connection and keep each other safe with advanced self-driving technologies. No road transport line by platooning is really operational today in the world. Nevertheless, many full-scale tests have been carried out in the United States, where a start-up called Peloton has emerged as a potential Tesla of platooning.