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February 24, 2016 10:50 AM, EST
Pilot Platooning Programs on Course in Florida, Missouri
Peloton Technology
Peloton’s plans to run pilot truck platooning programs are moving ahead with the introduction of legislation in Florida and Missouri that would suspend the minimum following distance of 300 feet without substituting a new length.

A similar bill passed in Utah last year and was followed by a platooning demonstration in November. There also have been demonstrations in Alabama, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and Texas, which is working with Arizona, California and New Mexico in hopes of launching a platooning test next year that would showcase streamlined truck travel from Houston to Los Angeles.

“I think it has a pretty good chance of passing since there has been no opposition raised against it,” said Missouri House Transportation Committee Chairman Glen Kolkmeyer, whose bill has an identical twin in the state Senate. “However, last year, there were over 2,000 bills introduced. Only 133 passed and were sent to the governor, and 115 of those became law. So there’s a 5-6% chance that any bill that’s filed will become law.”

James Pflum, an assistant resident engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation, hopes the pilot program can start next spring.

“We like what we see,” said Pflum, who is part of MODOT’s Road To Tomorrow initiative that approved the pilot. “We want people to look at Missouri and say, ‘That’s an innovative state.’ We’ve opened up 200 miles of I-70 as a laboratory for innovation. We said to the world, ‘If you have an innovative idea, come to us. If we like it, we’ll try it.’ "

According to Peloton, platooning makes the front truck 4.5% more fuel-efficient and the rear truck 10% more fuel-efficient, major considerations since 40% of longhaul fleets’ operating expenses are spent on fuel, accounting for more than 10% of U.S. oil use and related carbon emissions. 

Florida Trucking Association CEO Ken Armstrong is hopeful that a platooning bill, sponsored by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jeff Brandes, will pass before the legislative session ends March 11.

“As an association, we’re excited about the possibilities but at a measured pace,” Armstrong said.

If the bill doesn’t pass, Troy Thompson, chief of the Office of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement for the Florida Highway Patrol, favors a study of platooning followed by a pilot project.

“Everybody wants to get more information on exactly what it does and what the safe standard would be,” Thompson said. “We’ll work with all parties to make sure the program is as safe as it can possibly be for the motoring public.”