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If you know anything about the record of futurists, you are aware that most of their predictions fail to come to fruition within the timeframe set forth. Therefore, we wonder whether predictions of driverless LGVs on UK roads by 2018 have any merit. If technology company Ricardo has anything to say about, those LGVs will be common just a few years from now.

Ricardo’s Graeme Smith recently told a House of Commons committee that they should consider looking at driverless LGV technology. The system involves creating a convoy of vehicles being led by a single driver at the front of the pack; the other vehicles follow behind, being electronically ‘towed’ by a sophisticated computer system.

Smith said the driverless LGVs would have both financial and environmental benefits. For example, the computerised system would use significantly less fuel to transport the same amount of cargo from one point to the next. That would save operators money, reduce emissions, and increase logistics efficiency.

Ricardo has already demonstrated the technology under controlled conditions – it can work effectively. However, they believe some regulatory change will be needed to make the system economically feasible. For example, current regulations would have to be altered in order to allow LGV drivers to work longer hours. That alone raises serious doubts as to whether or not driverless LGVs will ever be reality in the UK. It is hard to imagine the government relenting on any of the regulations that are directly linked to vehicle and road safety.

A New LGV Class

Assuming Ricardo’s plans do come to fruition, they will require a new sort of LGV class (i.e., licence class and training). We imagine operating one of the convoys would require a special endorsement added to an existing LGV licence as well. If the technology were used to include HGVs, we would expect a similar implementation of a new HGV licence class.

As for the training, drivers would have to become intimately familiar with the electronic systems in every aspect. Not only would they need to know how to drive the convoys safely, they would also need to be thoroughly versed in the proper procedures should something go wrong. Just the thought of the potential problems involved with this sort of technology creates all sorts of ideas for training needs.

The HGV Training Centre is likely to implement training programmes should the government decide to allow this sort of technology on UK roads. We pride ourselves in being one of the UK’s leading providers of commercial driver training covering nearly every licence class. Any new licence class created by new technology will certainly be something we will work on as well.

In the meantime, we continue to offer comprehensive training for the standard LGV class licence. Our training concentrates only on those things drivers need to know to pass their tests. It is a well-focused and fast-paced approach that can have you licensed and on the road in a matter of weeks.


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