Trucking Groups Oppose AI Company’s Controversial Request… For Very Different Reasons
Washington, D.C. – Should trucking companies deploying trucks equipped with autonomous technology receive an exemption from the federal hours of service (HOS) regulations?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will soon be making a decision that many believe will be deeply consequential for the future of the trucking industry as it relates to the potential widespread adoption of autonomous technology.
A petition filed in April by driverless technology maker Pronto ai asks the FMCSA on behalf of its customers to grant a renewable five-year exemption from HOS rules to allow for an additional two hours of daily driving time and an extension of the daily on duty clock by one hour.
Specifically, Pronto ai argues its advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), Copilot, in conjunction with the SmartDrive Video Safety Program, will allow truckers to safely drive up to 13 hours during a period of 15 consecutive on duty hours because the technology will “greatly mitigate the risks of driver distraction and inattentiveness and assist the driver in maintaining safe operations.”
Pronto ai also argues its exemption should be granted because doing so will provide an incentive for motor carriers to invest in these costly technologies, which the FMCSA says will help reduce crashes and improve overall safety on our nation’s roadways.
The public comment period closed on May 20, therefore, it is likely the Agency will issue its decision no later than mid-October.
A quick review of the comments reveal the opposition to the request is overwhelming.
However, let’s take a closer look at where some trucking and transportation groups stand on the issue.
OPPOSE: Truckload Carriers Association
The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) expressed its opposition to Pronto ai’s request.
“TCA has consistently remained opposed to any requests to alter the HOS regulations in a way that would add hours to a driver’s 11-hour driving limit or 14-hour workday,” John Lyboldt, president of TCA said. “Any additional hours a driver is forced to spend piloting a vehicle could cause them to become overly fatigued.”
However, TCA lauded the FMCSA’s efforts to promote and look for ways to incentivize the rapid and widespread adoption of ADAS technology in the trucking industry.
“TCA is a fervent supporter of FMCSA’s initiatives to improve the adoption of ADAS technology within the trucking industry. TCA encourages all of our members to adopt ADAS technology, and we look forward to working closely with FMCSA to advance this effort,” Lyboldt states.
Explaining that the high cost of these ADAS technologies is a barrier to the Agency’s goal of widespread adoption, TCA argues an incentive is needed “absent a price change now,” but doesn’t agree Pronto ai’s proposed solution is the right one.
Instead, TCA proposes a different incentive be provided in the form of a tax reduction.
“TCA believes that a more effective incentive will be financial in nature. In particular, the removal of the 12% federal excise tax (FET) on the purchase of new heavy-duty trucks which are equipped with ADAS technology would truly spur industry adoption.”
OPPOSE: Owner Operator Independent Driver’s Association
The Owner Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA) went on the record in opposition to the request also.
“Pronto’s exemption request asserts that vehicles equipped with advanced driving systems such as automatic emergency brakes (AEB), adaptive cruise control, driver-facing cameras, and lane departure warning systems all enhance safety,” Todd Spencer, president of OOIDA, said. “In reality, these technologies come with their own dangers and we would argue that they can actually increase the risk of a crash in many cases.”
OOIDA asserted the safety benefits of advanced driving systems such as automatic emergency brakes (AEB), adaptive cruise control, driver-facing cameras, and lane departure warning systems are “unproven.”
In fact, OOIDA argued such systems actually cause additional risk for drivers.
“Most AEB systems are designed to only work at low speeds as sudden braking at higher speeds can startle a driver, leading to erratic driving behavior. Most AEB systems also lack sophisticated situational awareness, meaning they may not be able to recognize if an object ahead is in the current travel lane or the next lane over—and whether it is a temporarily stopped car, a pedestrian, or a bag of garbage. Thus, most systems do not brake for obstacles when the vehicle is traveling at high speeds. Further, AEBs can jeopardize safety in scenarios when the the best course of action for crash avoidance is to speed up, not brake.”
OPPOSE: United States Transportation Alliance
The United States Transportation Alliance (USTA) warned the FMCSA that hackers could turn an 80,000 lb. big rig into a weapon of mass destruction with a “single key stroke.”
“The act of actively automating our freight infrastructure will prove to be the single greatest security breach ever conceived,” the USTA commented. “A total loss of control with an 80,000 lb. piece of equipment would be disastrous for all other vehicles, persons, and property in the immediate area along that portion of roadway.”
OPPOSE: International Brotherhood of Teamsters
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) also weighed in “strongly” opposing the request over concerns about safety, but also the Agency picking winners and losers in the marketplace.
“FMCSA should not be in the business of granting exemptions to HOS rules to benefit one vendor over another,” the IBT argued. “By providing regulatory relief in this case, FMCSA would be tipping the scales in favor of Pronto and creating an unfair competitive advantage to carriers that utilize its product … What’s worse, it would be doing so without any concrete proof that the technology would not degrade the safety of everyone using our nation’s roads.”
OPPOSE: Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) also opposed the request stating, “If granted, this exemption would place an excessive burden on the enforcement community and potentially negatively impact safety.”
While CVSA says it anticipates the ADAS technologies could help reduce crashes, it contends granting an exemption to HOS rules to justify an incentive to widespread adoption is “premature.”
“Additional driving and on duty time increase the risk of fatigue and human error, regardless of what safety technology is on a vehicle,” CVSA said.
FAVOR: Scopelitis Transportation Consulting
In a four-page comment posted on May 22 — two days after the comment period closed — Scopelitis Transportation Consulting (STC) put forward seven different arguments in favor of FMCSA granting the request.
Dave Osiecki, president of STC, and former long-time executive with the American Trucking Associations (ATA), says “Pronto’s request will result in accelerated adoption and use of the same level 2 ADAS technologies supported by FMCSA (as part of its new TechCelerate Now program), and a comprehensive and effective video telematics and driver monitoring solution.”
Osiecki addressed concerns that the added hours will contribute to driver fatigue by pointing to the touted benefits of the SmartDrive camera system also included in Pronto’s exemption request.
“The potential for driver fatigue is the main concern when HOS exemptions are considered, as it should be,” Osiecki said. “The incorporation of SmartDrive’s smart sense driver fatigue monitoring system directly and proactively mitigates this concern.”
Additionally, Osiecki contends that since Pronto says it is willing to provide its data and analysis, which “most ADAS developers have been unwilling to share,” STC believes such information could be an important “key to the development and proliferation of this life-saving technology.”
NO COMMENT: American Trucking Associations
The trucking industry’s largest and most powerful trade group, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), did not file a public comment on the issue.
Additionally, none of its member state associations filed a comment either.
Click HERE to read what truckers had to say.