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ATRI's Roles of Government Activities in Automated Trucking Report - the Highlights

For many carriers, recruiters, and other professionals in the CDL trucking industry, keeping track of new legislation, governance, and regulations can seem like a full-time job.

While the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse might be taking up a bulk of time and energy going into 2020, there has been a steady growth of government activity within the CDL trucking space over the last few years. This is largely because of a few reasons. First, the roads have steadily become a much more dangerous place for both CDL and pedestrian drivers and, second, the growth of digital technology and innovation is changing the world of transportation as we know it.

In the last decade or so, self-driving cars have been the talk of the technology world. Since a large part of our country’s supply chain and logistics network relies heavily on the use of commercial freight trucks, it’s not surprising that this industry was quickly identified as a key focus for self-driving (aka autonomous) vehicles. Unfortunately, the steadily declining state of road safety doesn’t provide quite the best starting point for introducing automated semi-trucks into the mix.

While the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) recognized the incredible opportunity facing the CDL industry in years to come, it also realized the acute challenges the industry (and the North American infrastructure) could face if these autonomous vehicles were to come into the public consciousness without clear government involvement and legislation on both the state and federal level.

In its most recent report, Redefining the Role of Government Activities in Automated Trucking, ATRI takes a closer look at relevant policy, legislation, and changes that are impacting the CDL trucking industry. Here are a few key highlights from this ATRI report:

Various Regulatory Jurisdictions and Roles

 There are multiple federal agencies and groups that have started issuing legislation and policies surrounding autonomous vehicles for both personal and commercial use. These groups are:

  • The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), which has published a report on the vision of safety for handling automated vehicles.
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) has recently published multiple educational reports and addressed ongoing federal efforts to manage this shift in driving technology.
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which, while tasked with managing the safety and compliance of commercial vehicles, will be responsible for enforcing any regulations or compliance mandates with drivers and carriers.
  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which will manage the actual technology and hardware required to operate self-driving or autonomous commercial vehicles.

 Areas of Concern

Of course, right out of the gate there are multiple areas of concern when it comes to autonomous vehicle policy and legislation. The ATRI report identifies many of these areas in relation to how they map into the ongoing technological transformation of the CDL trucking industry.

Some of these areas of concern include:

  • The engineering and execution of cooperative automation and communication to monitor and ‘control’ autonomous commercial vehicles.
  • Figuring out when and how official teams can start to test automated commercial vehicles on public roads with all factors of natural traffic patterns.
  • The growing threat of cyber-attacks and threats and how to manage cybersecurity infrastructure across a fleet of completely autonomous commercial vehicles.
  • Ongoing concerns left over from the ELD Mandate over data privacy, interconnected technologies, and shared information.
  • The simple question of where this technological innovation leaves human drivers and how (if at all) humans and autonomous vehicles can intersect.

State Policies

In addition to federal agencies becoming involved in the conversation over autonomous commercial vehicles, state and local authorities are also taking action. This involvement has been revolving around areas of focus including how to license and register automated vehicles; how law enforcement officials should enforce traffic laws; how state-mandated inspections or check-ins will be handled; and answering questions over insurance and liability.

More from ATRI and DriverReach

ATRI is the trucking industry’s leading research firms and is constantly on the hunt for the most pressing issues – and most innovative opportunities – facing the industry today. You can learn more about some of the hottest topics in CDL trucking by signing up for this on-demand webinar from ATRI and DriverReach, “ATRI’s Top Industry Issues Right Now – and What to Do About Them”. 

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