Change catalyst

From the September 2017 issue.

Automated driving is the latest buzz in commercial road transport. But what could the advent of autonomous vehicles mean for the container transport industry?

According to José Viegas, former Secretary-General of the International Transport Forum (ITF), a Paris-based intergovernmental organisation linked to the OECD, driverless trucks could be a common sight on many roads within the next decade.

Even though more work has to be done before the right standards, legislation and processes are in place, he says “manufacturers are investing heavily into automation, and many a government is actively reviewing its regulations [around the topic].”

With that in mind, the next evolutionary leap of commercial road transport is seemingly within reach – and with it the age of remotely monitored trucks that carry more payload and operate 24-7. For the pulled unit, the change will be equally dramatic, especially with regard to overall length.

Discussions around the topic are currently emerging around the globe, with both incumbent businesses and start-ups hoping for new business opportunities to materialise on the back of them. Should the autonomous vehicles of the future ultimately relinquish the driver’s cab, they argue, the loading length of a European semi-trailer could theoretically be increased to the maximum allowed length for an articulated vehicle – 16.5m, according to EU Directive 96/53/EC.

To achieve maximum fuel efficiency, the addition of a nose cone would likely reduce the available loading length somewhat, but that doesn’t hold back speculations on what the trailer of the future will look like.

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