Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, said the trucking industry should have a seat at the table “as the roadmap for automated vehicles” is developed.
On Wednesday (Sept. 13), Spear testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce Science and Transportation about including commercial vehicles in discussions on automated vehicles and asked the federal government “to not stifle innovation around the technology.”
“While some people use the terms ‘autonomous’ and ‘driverless’ interchangeably, ATA believes the world of automated vehicles will still have an important role for drivers,” Spear said. “Just as pilots play a key role in our airline industry, truck drivers will do the same on the ground by leveraging the benefits of automated technology while navigating the cityscapes and handling the customer pickups and deliveries.”
Commercial vehicles must be included along with passenger vehicles when determining how automated vehicles will be overseen, he said.
“We are at a critical moment in the development of autonomous technology,” Spear said. “There are many questions to be answered — including those about cybersecurity, about the impact on trucking operations and how vehicles will interact with one another and about infrastructure. What is clear is that those questions should be answered for commercial and passenger vehicles at the same time.”
Spear also requested the government to set “uniform national rules of the road for automated vehicles,” while not suppressing innovation. “Federal agencies and state governments must commit to supporting innovation for both commercial and passenger vehicles, using existing regulatory exemptions to allow manufacturers and technology companies to test and develop new systems.”
Click here to read Spear’s full testimony.
FREIGHT INDEX RISES
The Freight Transportation Services Index rose 2.7% in July to an all-time high of 128.2, from 124.8 in the same month in 2016, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The index measures the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry and includes, trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipeline and air freight.
The increase in July “was driven by gains in trucking, pipeline and water while rail and carloads decreased and air freight and rail intermodal were stable,” according to BTS.
July was the third month in 2017 the index reached an all-time high and was 0.7% higher than the previous high in May. Over the first seven months of the year, the index was an average of 2.9% higher than in the first seven months of 2016.