Analysis of vehicle platoon movement and speed-spacing relationships during military exercises


Off-road military vehicles have been known for a long time to cause soil disturbances, which can cause severe terrain damage. It has been found that off-road vehicle movement is responsible for rutting, soil compaction, and vegetation loss. Off-road military vehicles are of particular importance, since they cause severe vegetation loss leading to soil erosion. Therefore, land managers at military training bases are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the land is sustainable for future training maneuvers.

The amount of disturbance caused by every vehicle can be quantified depending on soil characteristics, vehicle wheel and track sizes, vehicle dynamic features, such as turning radius and velocity, and the amount of vegetative cover available. The amount of damage is also dependent on the repeated vehicle platoon movement patterns, known as multi-pass. Several researchers have found that column movement (repeated traffic) is responsible for more damage to the terrain as opposed to dispersed traffic.

An in-depth investigation of the vehicle movement patterns during maneuvers will be important for the management of military training bases. If a GIS method of identifying vehicle column movement is developed, it would be helpful to training base managers, considering that vehicle column load movements lead to the most severe damage to vegetation and soil. The method would be important in identifying where this type of movement has occurred. It would then be easier to visually inspect the areas and rehabilitate them.

Professor Paul Ayers and Matthew Rice at the University of Tennessee developed a new method that can identify off-road vehicle columns movement. The method is considered important in assessing the environmental effects of off-road military vehicles by allowing the land managers to characterize vehicle column movement patterns at military training bases during maneuvers. Their research work is published in Journal of Terramechanics.

The authors mounted GPS units on military vehicles. These units collected on and off-road tracking information during a reconnaissance maneuver at the Fort Lewis Military Installation. They used a set of data using a Stryker platoon of four vehicles to assess the proposed method. They recorded at every second, the GPS coordinates, direction of travel, and speed for every vehicle. The authors then came up with a criteria of identifying platoon column movement reference to vehicle speed, proximity, and direction of travel.

The authors selected two data sets to analyze the method. They set the first data set where four vehicles were travelling at the same time, in the same direction, at identical velocities, but it could be seen visually that the vehicles were dispersed.

The authors chose the second data set where the vehicles were moving at the same speed, in the same direction, and they were within a specified distance of each other, and were moving one behind the other. The criteria correctly identified the column movement.

In addition to environmental effects, the proposed analysis by Paul Ayers and Matthew Rice could be implemented in accurately identifying column movement in order to assess speed-spacing relationships for on and off-road vehicle movement. They found that maneuver mission, vehicle type and condition, visibility, and accident avoidance technology, affected the column speed-spacing relationships.

About the author

Paul Ayers is a Biosystems Engineering Professor at the University of Tennessee. He has been evaluating vehicle movement patterns and terrain impacts of military vehicles since 1990. Some of his studies include the development of a vehicle terrain impact model, and analyzing and modeling the influence of speed, turning and soil conditions on terrain impacts for tracked and wheeled vehicles, including multi-pass.

Dr Ayers has used GPS to determine military vehicle movement patterns and georeferenced site-specific vehicle impacts (vegetation removal and rutting) at multiple military installations. He demonstrated the use of GPS-based vehicle tracking to identify new off-road trail development and the column movement of vehicle platoons. He is the United State Secretary for the International Society for Terrain Vehicle Systems (ISTVS).


Paul Ayers and Matthew Rice. Analysis of vehicle platoon movement and speed-spacing relationships during military exercises. Journal of Terramechanics, volume 73 (2017), pages 37–47.


Go To Journal of Terramechanics

Check Also

Effects of third-order susceptibility in sum frequency generation spectra