Senate Convenes Hearing on Automated Trucks

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation convened a hearing Sept. 13 to explore automated vehicle technology for commercial trucks – including testing and deployment challenges as compared with highly-automated vehicles.

Of interest to NATSO members, the hearing focused on whether separate standards should be required for highly-automated passenger vehicles and commercial trucks, and the potential employment challenges autonomous technology will have on the trucking industry. Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) on Sept. 8 released draft legislation on self-driving vehicles. Currently, the Thune-Peters draft legislation does not include regulations for commercial trucks.

During the hearing, members of the committee acknowledged the need for a federal regulatory framework but were divided over whether separate standards should be issued for automated commercial trucks. Chairman Thune argued for a single standard, while Senator Peters insisted that the Committee does not know enough about potential job displacement hazards to issue commercial truck standards under the same regulations as passenger vehicles.

Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) and American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear noted the similarities between pilots in the airline industry and drivers of automated trucks. Like pilots navigating planes, Spear argued drivers would always be needed to handle complex maneuvering of commercial trucks. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) agreed with panelists that advanced technology would create jobs and Congress has a responsibility to assure the public that truck driver jobs will not disappear with self-driving technology. Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.) urged Congress to work with outside groups to find a balance between emerging technology and worker issues to avoid job displacement.

Chairman Thune concluded the hearing by asking members of the committee for their input on the Thune-Peters draft legislation.

Witnesses included Colonel Scott G. Hernandez, Chief, Colorado State Patrol; Troy Clarke, Chief Executive Officer, Navistar; Ken Hall, General Secretary-Treasurer, International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Deborah Hersman, President and Chief Executive Officer, National Safety Council; Chris Spear, President and Chief Executive Officer, the American Trucking Associations.



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