The DfT remains fully committed to conducting a lorry platoon trial this year on UK roads, despite Daimler’s announcement this week that the commercial benefits of the technology appear negligible.

Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week Martin Daum, CEO of Daimler Trucks and Buses, said that while Daimler remains committed to developing autonomous trucks, the company has decided to shelve its platooning R&D programme.

This came after thousands of miles of real world testing had failed to deliver adequate fuel savings.

Daum said that while the technology “worked in the lab” the on-road trials had revealed that the platoons' flow was frequently interrupted by surrounding traffic which had resulted in more fuel being burnt as the platoon tried to re-engage.

He added that platooning may become a viable technology in the future if it could dispense with the need for drivers in the following trucks and said that Daimler had learnt a lot about the technology.

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The UK’s first on-road HGV platooning trial will begin shortly 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.

This will see the platoon incorporated into DHL Supply Chain's day-to-day delivery operations with specially trained company drivers operating the platoon.

However, a DfT spokeswoman told MT: “We remain fully committed to trialling lorry platooning and gathering an evidence base that will enable us to assess whether the technology is viable in the UK.

“Advances such as lorry platooning can mean cheaper fuel bills for businesses, and lower emissions and less congestion for other road users.”