The UK’s first on-road HGV platooning trial will begin in spring next year with a convoy of three wirelessly connected DAF trucks driven in the first phase by the manufacturer's engineers, Highways England has confirmed.

If the first phase of the £8.5m government funded trial is a success a second phase will be launched in the latter half of 2019 which will see the platoon incorporated into DHL Supply Chain's day-to-day delivery operations with specially trained company drivers operating the platoon.

A Highways England spokesman told MT that the first phase of the trial, in which DAF engineers will take the platoon “out on the road testing the equipment and getting to know the routes, is due to happen in the spring”.

He added that “assuming the first stage is successful”, the second on-road phase, using DHL Supply Chain drivers, will begin “in the latter half of 2019”.

Richard Cuerden, head of TRL Academy, who is leading the platooning trial, said: “This is a real trial, with real loads, driving in real conditions - and by working with DHL we will be able to look at whether this can really work for operators.”

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He added that the results of the trial could also help operators make fleet purchasing decisions based around the technology in the future.

The trial will run the trucks for 30,000 miles along the UK’s motorway network, with half of that distance used to run the trucks as a platoon and the other half used as a comparator.

Each truck will be manned by a specially trained DHL driver, with the lead driver operating the convoy during platooning operations and the other drivers on stand-by to retake control at any time.

The trial will look at how safe it is to operate HGV platoons in live traffic, fuel consumption, emission levels, and the platoon’s impact on other road users, traffic flow and network infrastructure.