Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

DB Schenker trials platooning for logistics

Steve Rogerson
July 10, 2018



In a pilot project, DB Schenker, Man Truck & Bus and Hochschule Fresenius University demonstrated the use of platooning in the logistics industry with two digitally networked lorries.
 
The project on the A9 highway in Germany was witnessed by Andreas Scheuer, Germany’s federal minister of transport and digital infrastructure.
 
The two-lorry platoon set off from the DB Schenker branch office in Neufahrn near Munich via the A9 digital test field to Nuremberg. The federal government is funding the pilot project with around €2m.
 
"This is a visionary research project for our digital test site, the A9 highway,” said Scheuer. “The project marks the start of the automated and networked future of road haulage. We bring tomorrow's technology onto today's roads, testing the intelligent interaction of man, machine and material. Our opportunities: logistics processes from ramp to customer can become safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. And truck drivers can become modern logistics specialists in digital trucks."
 
The picture shows from left to the right: Christian Haas, director of the Institute for Complex Health Research at Hochschule Fresenius; Joachim Drees, CEO of Man Truck & Bus; Scheuer; Alexander Doll, DB board member for freight transport and logistics; and Sabina Jeschke, DB board member for digitalisation and technology.
 
The regular test runs of the networked lorries began late last month along the 145km route. Trials are being carried out without any loads until early August. After that, the platoons will be on the road every day, making up to three routine logistics trips and laden with part loads of, for example, machine parts, drinks or paper.
 
"This first use of truck platoons in Germany will set new standards in the logistics market, from which our customers will benefit first and foremost," said Doll. "With this project, DB Schenker is showing what matters for companies all over the world in the future: advancing innovations through new partnerships."
 
By using this technology, DB Schenker is expanding its digital business model.
 
"Today, we at DB are once again bringing a new technology to the road,” said Jeschke. “With the platooning project, we are further expanding our pioneering role in the field of autonomous and networked driving.”
 
During the practical tests, the platooning technology for logistics use will be further optimised, for example with regard to system safety, fuel consumption and better use of space on freeways. The project partners also hope to gain insights into the social acceptance of the networked driving style, as well as into transport policy and infrastructural prerequisites.
 
"It's not just about using a technology,” said Drees. “It's about integrating it effectively into the entire logistics chain. The findings from the joint project are an important step towards series development. This will give Man a leading role in the automation and digitisation of commercial vehicles,"
 
Since the collaboration began in May 2017 and the official handover of the test vehicles by Man in February this year, the lorry drivers have been prepared for their role in the project through intensive training. The psychosocial and neurophysiological effects of the technology on the drivers in the platoon will be examined by Hochschule Fresenius with an accompanying study. This will allow important experiences of the lorry drivers to be incorporated and their job profile developed further.
 
"It's obvious that digitisation of the mobility and transport system is leading to completely new requirements for employees in the industry," said Haas. “We hope that our findings can also contribute to a better understanding and design of other digitised human-machine interfaces."
 
The term platooning refers to a system that vehicles use on the road in which at least two lorries drive in a tight convoy on a freeway, supported by technical driving assistance and control systems. All of the vehicles in the platoon are linked to each other by an electronic drawbar that uses vehicle-to-vehicle communications. The lorry in front sets the speed and direction, and the others follow.