Autonomous truck

NTTC says drivers must be present on board autonomous vehicles used to transport hazmat

In comments regarding autonomous vehicles that were submitted to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), National Tank Truck Carriers said driver attendance at all times is critical for any autonomous vehicle used to transport hazardous materials.

On May 7, NTTC submitted comments to FMCSA and PHMSA with suggestions on how the two agencies should regulate autonomous trucks and the transportation of hazardous materials over the road. On the same day that Peloton Technology announced that it would deploy platooning technology in over-the-road service by the end of 2018.

NTTC’s comments were developed from member input during the Energy Services Committee meeting at our 70th Annual Conference in Toronto ON, Canada. Based on member responses, NTTC’s comments suggested that the two agencies should prepare for autonomous trucks by keeping the following principles in mind:

• Adopt a vehicular Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm to existing drivers and vehicles;

• Don’t change what works: Existing rules for human drivers should remain in place;

• Place Responsibility Responsibly: Technological changes provide an opportunity to examine which parties can now most efficiently ensure safe transport and place responsibility appropriately;

• Move to a performance-based, operator-neutral perspective: While maintaining existing rules for humans, when possible, the FMCSRs and HMRs should be updated to performance standards that encapsulate the current rules for humans while holding automated vehicles driving (or assisting in driving) to an equivalent safety standard; and

• Safe is Better Than Sorry: Ensuring the autonomous vehicle’s security systems are robust enough to prevent them being used as weapons by terrorist organizations or enemy nations.

“After reviewing the submissions, each organization will decide how to best move forward,” said Boyd Stephenson, NTTC senior vice-president of government affairs. “Most likely, both agencies will issue notices of proposed rulemaking, which will spell out what specific changes to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and the Hazardous Materials Regulations are being proposed.” 

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