Automation innovations are becoming extremely impactful on the lives of America’s workforce, according to Meera Joshi, acting administrator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
These people will need to have adequate preparation should their jobs be likely to become affected by these changing technologies, as these modernizations may have “extremely real and broad impacts,” Joshi noted. Preparation should include proper training opportunities and access to to information regarding other jobs that can continue adequately, regardless of automation.
Joshi spoke at the virtual 20th annual Analysis, Research, and Technology Forum held by FMCSA–the Office of Analysis, Research, and Technology focuses heavily on decreasing truck crash deaths and injuries by contributing data and analysis for scientific research regarding boosted safety tech.
Previously, Joshi served as commissioner for the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.
“There’s a huge workforce that today travels all across the nation and performs the duties of a professional driver, and it’s been a mainstay of American employment for quite a long time,” she explained. “Nothing will happen overnight, but automated vehicles will certainly make inroads into that workforce. What we can’t argue about is that this is a reality. There will be a major shift in [the nation’s] workforce.”
The identification and improvement of fatal crash corridors that pose a high risk to drivers is another area of focus by FMCSA’s Office of Analysis, Research, and Technology, said the office’s acting director, Kenneth Riddle, at the virtual event. The group is prioritizing a project that will investigate the cases of previous fatal crashes in these areas and determine which spots are the most dangerous–and find efficient methods of improvement.
To begin a nation-wide approach targeting specific regions, the office will utilize data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System to make the most effective changes possible, noted the Analysis Division’s chief, William Bannister.
According to Riddle, the office will also place major focus into Innovative Technology Deployment grants to fund aspects of Innovative Technology Deployment programs across certain states, such as information systems that are carrier-specific. Additionally, FMCSA will hold a demonstration with its fleets designed specifically for automated vehicle testing this year through its Technology Division.
“The Innovative Technology Deployment grants are a critical resource for states to deploy technology projects to improve overall efficiency to their [commercial motor vehicle] operations [within] both the administration and enforcement areas,” explained Riddle.
In addition, improved compliance capabilities will be a major factor at hand with these efforts. Riddle added: “The ITD projects improve the efficiency of state roadside regulatory compliance activities to allow them to focus on high-risk carriers.”
Still, many regulations are currently in limbo as the government transitions from the Trump administration to the Biden administration, with many proposals still under review. One such proposal is that of a pilot program which originally aimed to evaluate two truck driver sleeper berth split time options–one that divided 10 hours of mandatory off duty time into a 6/4-hour split, and one that divided it into a 5/5-hour split.
“Real evaluation of what’s currently in place is something that I think is primary in understanding whether there should be further adjustment to the rules,” said Joshi. “We’re certainly open and interested and need the information from stakeholders whose particular category of business may [cause them to] find themselves in different situations with respect to our rules. There’s absolutely that balance.”
The coronavirus pandemic has also led to further changes regarding safety improvement efforts, as stay-at-home orders caused more people to stay off the road and reduce traffic congestion–but with more people returning to work and fewer people wanting to use public transportation out of fear of virus transmission, the nation could see more vehicles on the roads now than we did pre-pandemic.
“2021 may very well see many more cars and many more trucks on our roads,” said Joshi. “That doesn’t bode well for reducing fatalities. It makes our task that much more challenging in the coming years.”
Still, groups like American Transportation Research Institute are dedicating many of their efforts to analyzing Crash Predictor Models and a potential vehicle-miles-traveled tax system for the country, according to ATRI’s President, Rebecca Brewster, who made clear the fact that modern and adaptive industry research will continue on, no matter what setbacks may arise.