American Trucking Associations is once again urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to adopt new, nationwide policies in regards to autonomous technology deployment for the transportation industry.
This call comes as USDOT begins efforts to renew its near-term strategic plan to further facilitate AV tech deployment within the trucking sector. The department has been seeking industry expert and stakeholder comments on the matter.
“Stakeholder engagement must be central to the department’s strategic plan,” ATA said. “Especially as DOT implements the programs and requirements of the [$1 trillion] Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, we note that partnerships and collaboration with [the] industry will be crucial to [advancing] productivity-boosting and lifesaving AV technologies.”
Other federal initiatives, like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s industry feedback-reliant voluntary safety self-assessment, will provide a variety of benefits to these efforts, ATA explained.
“Automated trucks present the next transformative opportunity to promote safety, improve the efficiency of freight movement and the U.S. logistics system, and maintain U.S. competitiveness in innovative automotive and mobility technologies,” said ATA in its recent letter to USDOT.
The implementation of these modern technologies should be regular and steady in order for the industry to stay on top of the latest methods of increasing productivity and safety, as well as to continuously meet constantly-changing federal standards, ATA continued.
“The trucking industry relies on interstate highways to facilitate the free flow of goods between states,“ the group explained. “Accordingly, it is important that state and local laws do not create disparities that slow the adoption of these safety and productivity-boosting technologies.”
To remain a competitive industry, regulators must stay ahead of the curve with these changes, as well.
“A clear process and standards-setting role for the federal government that precludes state efforts to regulate vehicle design is a key component of this pathway to commercialization,” said ATA.
Additionally, the department should begin working with agencies across the country to find methods of creating efficiency through performance-centric standards, according to ATA.
“Industry best practices can provide a vital technical basis to assist DOT in [the] evolution of a regulator framework,” ATA explained. “Requiring [AV] to meet a certain level of safety, rather than use any specific technology, can focus regulations on managing risk within specific operating environments.”
DOT should also invest in programs to solve congestion-related issues, ATA said, pointing to rulemakings such as NHTSA’s ‘Framework for Automated Driving Systems Safety,’ and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s ‘Safe Integration of ADS-Equipped CMVs.’ Congestion-solving investments would allow the industry to focus on major freight corridors in order to boost the flow efficiency of the nation’s goods, as the modernization and maintenance of critical connectivity points along the supply chain is currently of the utmost importance.
“We advise against federal policies that are likely to prevent or hamstring state and local agencies’ efforts to expand highway capacity,” said ATA. “This includes conditioning the expenditure of federal funds for new capacity on a showing that alternatives, such as operational strategies or investment in alternative transportation modes, are definitely ruled out.”
Currently, ATA is also calling for further interaction between DOT and the transportation industry itself in regards to next steps in implementing further low-carbon-emission tech in a manner providing proper fueling infrastructure, sufficient testing, and consideration for the needs of truckers.
ATA is also requesting that President Biden find methods of offering state and city guidance for the deployment of electric vehicles as well as overarching standards for charging stations across the country. A stakeholder group aiming to move forward electric vehicle policies should also be set forth by the administration, ATA claims.
USDOT notes that it will continue to work on objectives to “strengthen our world-class organization” through projects improving safety, equity, sustainability, and economic growth, and that it is always working toward advancing “the department’s mission by establishing policies, processes, and an inclusive and innovative culture to effectively serve communities and responsibly steward the public’s resources.”
Stakeholder and public input is requested by the USDOT regarding these plans to “invest in our transportation system to provide American workers and businesses reliable and efficient access to good-paying jobs, resources, and markets.”