There has been some cautious welcoming of the recent proposal by the government to a trial of self-driving lorries using England’s motorways.

The trial, due for 2018, will see up to three lorries travel in automated convoys which will be controlled by a driver in the lead vehicle. It is in a bid to cut congestion and emissions.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “Motorways are our safest roads and that record must not be jeopardised by any rush towards autonomous technology. The technology exists to implement platooning but in the real world it must deliver real economic benefits to outweigh our safety worries.”

The heavy goods vehicles will travel on the motorway by using wireless technology with up to three heavy goods vehicles in a convoy, being controlled by the lead vehicle. It will be funded by the government to a tune of £8.1m. However, every truck in the platoon will have a driver ready to take control should the need arise.

Commenting on the news, Jason Wakeford, Director of Campaigns for Brake, the road safety charity, said: “Rather than platooning lorries on already congested UK roads, the Government should instead cut emissions and improve public safety by moving more freight from road to rail. Each freight train takes around 60 HGVs off the road network.”

The Road Haulage Association’s chief executive Richard Burnett said: “Of course we welcome improvements to the way the road freight industry works and we understand the benefits that such a mode of operation would bring. However, currently the focus seems to be on the technology behind the system. Safety has to come first and it cannot be compromised.”

It seems that there are still many genuine questions that need to be answered by the trial. The RHA for one, will be following the trials very carefully and will be making its views heard on the consultation that follows.