In September 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation – referred to as the Self-Drive Act – which furthers progress toward expanding the number of driverless cars on the roads. This legislation encourages manufacturers to accelerate developing these vehicles in order to have them on the market faster. However, the House bill did not include any provisions concerning the inclusion of self-driving trucks. A number of U.S. Senators wanted to include driverless trucks in the legislation, however, enough resistance remains from certain lobbying groups at this time to exclude them from the legislation. As well, the Brotherhood of Teamsters union’s concern over potential losses of union jobs persists as a real issue to be addressed.
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The Self-Drive Act
The Self-Drive Act opens the door for an additional 25,000 to 100,000 self-driving vehicles to be introduced onto the roadways each year for foreseeable future. The legislation accelerates the process of bringing these autonomous vehicles onto the roadways by protecting them from certain safety regulations that are not applicable to driverless technology. States will still retain the power to determine if and when driverless cars are allowed on their own roadways. The bill restricts the weight limit of self-driving vehicles to less than 10,000 pounds – effectively excluding the introduction of self-driving tractor-trailers at this time.
As self-driving cars gradually increase their presence on U.S. roadways, it seems to be only a matter of time before self-driving trucks make their introduction, as well. However, various issues need to be worked out and a consensus must be reached regarding the various safety concerns of introducing autonomous trucks and big rigs onto the nation’s roadways.
Detractors of Self-Driving Trucks
Some leaders in the auto industry have estimated that as many as three million commercial trucking jobs could be at risk if self-driving trucks made human drivers unnecessary.
The Teamsters Union has conducted strong lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill and at the state government level to slow down legislation that advances self-driving technology. Teamsters President James P. Hoffa has argued that the new driverless technology should be used for the purpose of increasing the effectiveness and safety of transportation, and not in order to destroy the livelihoods of truckers.
Teamsters General Secretary Treasurer Ken Hall testified before a Senate committee stating that “it is essential that American workers are not treated as guinea pigs for unproven technologies that could put their lives at risk.” He also emphasized that any issues involving commercial trucks can potentially cause more damage than those caused by smaller passenger cars.
Proponents of Self-Driving Trucks
The advocates of self-driving vehicles point to the statistic that human error is responsible for 94 percent of car crashes in the United States. They contend that self-driving vehicles could significantly reduce the fatalities that occur on the roadways each year.
Additionally, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated that the projected fuel savings garnered through the introduction of self-driving trucks to be between 6.7 and 18.6 percent. The EIA determined that these automated trucks could lower consumer prices, enhance economic competitiveness, and promote job growth.
Shipping companies and technology firms are confident about the prospects of self-driving trucks traveling on the nation’s roadways. Various companies are working on developing automated trucks, including Tesla Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo unit, and Uber Technologies Inc.’s Otto unit.
As well, self-driving technology is seen by supporters as a somewhat natural fit for use by the trucking industry due to the fact that big tractor-trailer rigs utilize the expansive highway network throughout the United States. These highway networks are compared with the often intricate, congested, and stop-and-go nature of urban roadways in a localized setting.
The trucking industry also has the potential to benefit greatly in an economic sense from the inclusion of self-driving trucks. This is something that legislators may consider as they determine if, when, and how quickly to move trucks into this new era of automated transportation technology.
What is the Future of Self-Driving Trucks?
The U.S. economy depends largely on the trucking industry. It’s important for the industry to be intricately involved in the development of driverless technology. That way, those who work with/driving trucks can provide important input regarding the regulations of this technology that allow manufacturers to create systems that are as safe as possible for customers. Any legislation that introduces self-driving trucks onto the roadways will have to thoroughly address all safety concerns as well as the job security of workers.
Contact an Experienced Houston Trucking Accident Attorney
At The Krist Law Firm, P.C., we have the resources and experience to aggressively pursue your trucking accident claim while also offering the understanding and compassion your family needs during this difficult time. Our experienced attorneys know how the litigation system works and what strategies to employ in order to fight for your right to recover compensation for your injuries.
Contact us today at (281) 283-8500, or contact us online to schedule a free evaluation of your case.