Not far off, large trucks that roar over the region’s highways may carry a technology allowing them to travel much closer together — even while saving lives and fuel.

Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, is sponsoring a bill in the Missouri General Assembly that would authorize testing for a connected vehicle technology — or truck platooning — program.

Under current Missouri law, the traveling distance between trucks must be at least 300 feet. Hegeman’s proposal would exempt trucks participating in a testing program that relies on vehicle-to-vehicle wireless communication. Although each truck has a driver, the front driver using the invisible linkage controls the speed and brakes of another truck immediately following it.

The program would be restricted to trucks on open stretches of public highways and be subject to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission’s approval.

The senator said the idea showcases the merits of saving fuel and reducing collisions.

“Fuel savings, first of all and foremost,” Hegeman said. “It creates a significant fuel economy savings by allowing the trailing tractor-trailer to effectively slip stream behind the leading tractor-trailer.”

The two trucks would be electronically linked while just 30 feet apart. Traffic safety would be enhanced through a reduction and potential prevention of front collisions. The technology features an automatic application of brakes on both trucks, eliminating human reaction time for the trailing vehicle.

The Missouri Department of Transportation spoke on the “Road to Tomorrow” proposal at a state chamber of commerce conference last month in Jefferson City, Missouri. The agency would be in charge of writing rules for the program. The safety and efficiency arguments have also brought the Missouri Trucking Association to the table.

Tom Crawford, the association’s president and CEO, said the advantages outweigh the minuses. Red flags to the notion aren’t forecast, he added, and there is optimism the bill will garner interest despite the sea of issues that typically flood the Missouri Capitol.

“You could have strategic partnerships” of truck firms, he said. “There are a lot of factors in platooning.”

UPS has been piloting the technology in other parts of the nation.

“They’re interested in doing it in Missouri,” Crawford said. “It’s still developing.”

A companion bill filed by state Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer, R-Odessa, has begun advancing through the House.

Ray Scherer can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPScherer.

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