Shaping the future

From the November 2017 issue.

Home to Europe’s largest and most productive port, Rotterdam will be hosting the 15th international Symposium on Heavy Vehicle Transport Technology in 2018.

Organised by the International Forum for Road Transport Technology (IFRTT), the bi-annual Heavy Vehicle Transport Technology (HVTT) symposium is no ordinary industry gathering. Since 1986, it has established itself as the world’s preeminent knowledge hub on heavy vehicle technology and has been likened to the UN Summit of the commercial road transport scene.

In late 2018, the landmark event will return to The Netherlands, where it was first held in 2002 (see breakout box). According to Loes Aarts, Chair of the HVTT Organising Committee, the city of Rotterdam will form the perfect backdrop for the event’s return to Europe following last year’s stop in New Zealand and the previous instalment in Argentina.

Home to an international cargo port capable of handling more than 465 mega-tonnes annually, she says Rotterdam has to facilitate some 23 million trailer movements every year – equating to 44 vehicles every minute. Discussing the future of road transport in such a high-energy environment could prove especially inspiring, she notes. “We live in an exciting time for road transport, both from an equipment and regulatory perspective.”

She adds, “Over the past decade, we have been able to observe the integration of commercial vehicles into the operational structures of modern business. In an increasingly connected world, these once separate areas will continue to merge, forced by huge economic and societal challenges such as tightening emissions legislation, but also by limited infrastructure capacity, for example. Rotterdam is the perfect place to experience that historic transition first-hand.”

While Rotterdam is hoping to soon become a “zero emissions city” in a move to reduce noise and improve air quality, she says it is suffering from the same set of challenges most European cities are facing – a historically grown footprint, aging infrastructure and a rigid market structure dominated by long-standing, often well-connected businesses with limited interest in radical change.

“The central question is how to align the road freight transport system as we know it with increasing social and economic complexity while making use of new technological opportunities – and all of it with significant safety and environmental constraints in mind.
“Answering that question isn’t as straightforward as it used to be in the age of electrification, autonomy and the sharing economy. There are some serious challenges for the transport sector on the horizon, and we see many of them unfold right here at our doorstep.”

With the Dutch Government now proactively encouraging innovative solutions such as truck platooning, Aarts says the global research society will find itself “in a most stimulating environment” at the Dutch coast – adding HVTT15 will once again encourage a multimodal and multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving to ensure it will attract the world’s most forward-thinking experts in transport technology, regulation and politics.

“The challenges that come with societal and technological change cannot be overestimated,” continues Joop Pauwelussen, Chairman of HVTT15’s Scientific Committee. “Road-based transport is a vital part of the solution – it is key to making transport more efficient, safer and more sustainable. HVTT will provide a forum to exploring just what that solution could look like.”

While some of the ideas discussed in forums such as HVTT may seem overly futuristic, he says both traditional and ‘out of the box’ scenarios need to be considered to truly future-proof modern commercial road transport. “A multi-faceted problem will ultimately need a multi-faceted solution. As always, HVTT will offer a stage for research institutes, governmental bodies and multilateral organisations to present and expose the kind of ‘work in progress’ that will guide us into the future.

“But we also need to retain a close link to everyday life. Truck accidents are still a pressing issue, for example, so we can’t forget these existing pain points when discussing new concepts like autonomous driving.”

According to Pauwelussen, HVTT15 is expecting delegates from all six continents, with over 70 papers presented in three parallel sessions – all under the motto Economy On Wheels. Fast Changes, Slow Structures.

In a HVTT first, the event will also host two special ‘Young Talent’ sessions of one hour each, giving five select young researchers the opportunity to address the world’s Who’s Who in heavy vehicle research and development. The three best young researchers will be nominated for the IFRTT’s inaugural Young Talent Award.

“HVTT is a platform to address a changing world, and part of that is including the next generation,” says Pauwelussen. “With the Young Talent Award, we hope to inspire a new cohort of talent from all sectors to ensure we have the best minds working on the future of commercial road transport.”

The deadline for the submission of abstracts for HVTT15 has been extended and will close 30 November 2017.

Fast Fact
The 15th Heavy Vehicle Transport Technology (HVTT) symposium will be held at the De Doelen Conference Centre in Rotterdam from 2-5 October 2018.

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