FRANKFORT – Semi-autonomous tractor-trailers could be coming to Kentucky’s highways under a bill that unanimously passed the state Senate today.
Senate Bill 116 would allow truck platooning. The term refers to two or more individual commercial vehicles traveling together in sync with electronically coordinated speeds through wireless communication. Once the vehicles get on the road and platoon mode has been turned on, the front vehicle’s driver is in control of the speed while the following driver is able to take his or her foot off the gas pedal and stay in sync with the vehicle ahead.
“It is basically for the FedExs, UPSs, DHLs and Amazons of the world,” said sponsor Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Prospect, in reference to the shipping giants sprawling airfreight operations in Louisville and Northern Kentucky. Just this year, Amazon announced it would build a $1.4 billion hub at Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport to support a fleet of 100 plus Prime Air cargo planes.
A floor amendment introduced by Harris would limit the platoons to two vehicles and require truck operators to submit a platooning plan to the state police for review.
Harris said trucks traveling as close as 250 feet apart are more fuel-efficient because air-drag friction is reduced significantly. He also said safety is also improved because trucks in platoon mode only need one-fifth of the time a human would need to react.
During a committee hearing on the bill earlier this month, the state transportation department endorsed the legislation.
SB 116 now goes the House for consideration.