Gavin Murray

Member Article

Haulage boss urges caution over lorry convoys

The head of haulage firm Grampian Continental is calling for caution over a Department of Transport feasibility study that could see computer-controlled lorry convoys introduced to UK roads.

The freight industry is awaiting the Department of Transport’s report following a fact-finding mission to Sweden, where convoys of up to 10-vehicles long are being trialled.

Fans of the convoys say they will cut fuel consumption and emissions by reducing the distance between lorries to under 10 metres to cut drag. The Swedish trials involve a lead cab containing a wireless-linked controller that sets the pace, acceleration and braking of the convoy, while each vehicle’s driver controls the steering.

Gavin Murray, Sales Director of Grampian Continental, believes more research is needed: “There are some real safety issues that need addressing before this idea is taken seriously here in the UK, especially at a time when the haulage industry is working together to improve safety statistics.

“We are talking about convoys of 50-tonne lorries with just a one or two second gap between each vehicle. In effect it means car drivers wanting to enter or leave a motorway junction will have no opportunity to move into a gap between lorries and would have to speed up to get in front of the convoy, or even stop to wait for the tail of the convoy to pass.

“This could be very intimidating, particularly for new or nervous drivers, and anxious drivers make bad decisions.

“I’m also wary of anything going wrong with the technology that will control these convoys. Who controls the wi-fi connection, and what happens if it is hacked or fails? And any mechanical failure such as a shifting load or a blown tyre could be equally disastrous for lorry and car drivers alike.

“We have some of the busiest roads in Europe, and what may work in countries with wide, open motorways and well maintained roads may not translate well to the UK.

“Rubber stamping these ‘road trains’ would be a step change in the way we move goods around the UK but it is not something we should rush into. I am not sure we are ready to hand over control of giant multi-tonne fleets to technology, however smart it may be.”

The move would need to be sanctioned by the international driving standards agency, the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, and road haulage bodies are keen to see debate involving a wide range of stakeholders leading up to that point.

Grampian Continental is a £15m turnover firm specialising in the oil, gas and green energy sector and services more than 500 clients across the UK, Europe and North Africa.

Set up in 2009 by Gavin Murray, Neil Bremner and Michael Lacey, the firm has offices in Bedlington, Aberdeen, Great Yarmouth, Holland and Italy, and employs 102 staff and drivers.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Grampian Continental .

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