FMCSA Eyes Hours-of-Service Changes For Truckers Who Team With Self-Driving Systems
Washington D.C. – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is eyeing possible regulatory changes in order to allow for the deployment of self-driving trucks.
The Agency continues to evaluate what steps it can take to help speed the adoption and deployment of trucks equipped with self-driving technology.
One area regulators are evaluating is possible alterations to hours-of-service (HOS) rules in order to accommodate business models in which truckers team with automated driving systems (ADS).
Speaking Wednesday during a panel discussion hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), Jeff Loftus, head of the Technology Division of the FMCSA’s Office of Analysis, Research and Technology, indicated regulators are studying the issue carefully.
“We’re trying to anticipate new business models, where there could be instances with emerging business strategies where you have truck drivers and automated trucking systems perhaps performing as a team, where they switch back and forth,” Loftus commented. “We’re trying to understand the technology aspects of that and anticipating the potential of getting requests for exemptions in our regulations in the future, such that the vehicle may perform some of the driving task, the human will perform others, and what changes do we have to make to our hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, as an example.”
The Agency has already dealt with a similar exemption request before.
Last year, driverless technology maker Pronto applied — on behalf of its customers — for an HOS exemption to allow for an additional two hours of daily driving time and an extension of the daily on duty clock by one hour.
Pronto argued its system allows truckers to safely drive up to 13 hours during a period of 15 consecutive on duty hours because the technology “greatly mitigates the risks of driver distraction and inattentiveness and assists the driver in maintaining safe operations.”
The Agency eventually denied the request citing insufficient data to support Pronto’s assertions.
However, this is an issue sure to be pressed by industry stakeholders again as some of America’s largest carriers continue moving forward on plans to deploy SAE Level 4 trucks in the near future.
These carriers will certainly be looking to gain a competitive advantage over companies unable to afford such technology and will need federal regulators to help clear the way.
Self-driving technology makers also understand they need cooperation from regulators.
That’s likely a big reason why these companies have already recruited a slew of former United States Department of Transportation officials, including recent former FMCSA Administrators Jim Mullen and Wiley Deck, to join their teams.
TransportationNation.com will closely monitor new developments.
Photo courtesy Plus.ai