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Trucking Wants More Say in Autonomous Policy

A recent Capitol Hill hearing on trucking safety somehow produced one big, resounding note – to give a seat at the table to trucking on discussions that are centered around automated vehicle regulations.

Officials held a hearing, titled “Under Pressure: The State of Trucking in America” before the Highway and Transit subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and spotlighted a panel of eight witnesses. The hearing ran over three hours, with much of the discussion focused on safety.

U.S. Representative Sharice Davids of Kansas, who worked on autonomous car policy while at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is worried that most of the AV policymaking so far in Washington, D.C. has gravitated toward passenger cars and not enough around the concept of freight. “What does intentional autonomous vehicle policy look like, so that we’re taken care of,” she asked the panel.

American Trucking Association President and CEO Chris Spear echoed Representative David’s comments. Spear said that for the longest time officials excluded the trucking industry from this discussion. He disagreed with this and wanted an invite. “We’re moving 71 percent of the freight, we’re half the tab of the highway trust fund. Not to slight my friends in the auto industry, but we’re not going to hand the whole policy plate for them and DOT to write. We have to be at the table to accommodate what the future is going to look like.”

Spear also argued against all the talk of driverless trucks. To his mind, we’re trying to recruit people to the industry while at the same time suggesting their jobs will be gone in five years. This isn’t much of a pitch to bring new drivers into the fold. He added, “I think you’re going to see cars evolve quicker, and they should. Passenger vehicles cause two-thirds of the accidents involving trucks.

Technology and Trucking

Technology can definitely help on the trucking front as it pertains to accidents. Emergency braking and increasing vehicle connectivity through a broadening of the wireless spectrum will help trucks to smoothly shift into the “driver-assist” level of automation.

Most involved in the panel agreed that automated systems in trucks would dramatically improve overall highway safety.

What do you guys think? Does trucking need more of a say in automated vehicle policy?

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