September 11, 2017 1:45 PM, EDT

Capitol Agenda for the Week of Sept. 11: That Truck Is Driving Itself

Aether Films

The week ahead for trucking on Capitol Hill:

Super smart robot trucks capable of communicating with other robot trucks while they haul freight along highways, without a driver, is no longer science fiction. Those trucks, popularized by Hollywood decades ago, are pretty much in the here and now. More and more trucks and cars are coming equipped with a plethora of sensors designed to avoid collisions and self-park. A few tech firms also have unveiled vehicles capable of maneuvering without drivers.

This week, the autonomous trucks will splash onto the mainstream.

The Republican leadership in Congress and the White House might as well have dubbed the next few days “Autonomous Week.” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao intends to set the tone Sept. 12 for the regulatory landscape envisioned for them cool iTrucks manufacturers hope to sell. The Senate Commerce Committee will follow up the next day with a hearing on the requisite legislative framework, culminating with a truck platooning demonstration at the end of the week hosted by the Federal Highway Administration. Several states have allowed truck platooning tests on local roads. Platooning is when one or two trucks without a driver follow a lead truck via remote communication. Federal guidance would help to pave the way, eventually, for nationwide platooning.

The industry has clamored for guidance on platooning and autonomous systems for several years. A concern before the industry is the impact self-driving trucks could have on the labor force. Industry leaders have assured policymakers drivers always will play a role, much the same way pilots continue to manage airplanes that have autonomous features.


Sept. 12, 12: 30 p.m.: Secretary Chao will discuss self-driving policy at the University of Michigan.

Sept. 13, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee hosts a hearing on autonomous trucks, featuring American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear.

Sept. 14, 10 a.m.: The Senate Finance Committee hosts a hearing on tax reform.

Sept. 14, 11:30 a.m.: Politico hosts House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) on “The View from Ways and Means: Prospects for Tax Reform”

Sept. 14-15: The Federal Highway Administration hosts a truck platooning demonstration in Centreville, Va.


SPOT MARKET: In the days after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area, longhaul spot market prices tripled, in some cases, to between $5,000 and $10,000, according to conversations with truck drivers. Load board operators concurred that there was a rate spike through Sept. 5 in Texas, doubling on average in certain lanes.

IRMA: Oil rose as Irma weakened to a tropical storm after hitting Florida, while Gulf Coast refining continued to recover after storm Harvey.

FITBIT: Goodyear is testing a smart tire that, much like a Fitbit, relays condition information based on cloud computing analytics.


The Gray Lady examines Florida’s road map for rebuilding its infrastructure after Hurricane Irma.


Top transportation policymakers are expected to deliver keynote addresses at this year’s American Trucking Associations’ annual Management Conference & Exhibition in October.


For those who have already installed an ELD and are satisfied with it, my message is simple, if you like your ELD you can keep your ELD.

Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), on the House floor Sept. 6, urging colleagues to vote for an amendment that would have denied funding for the electronic logging device mandate effective Dec. 18.


The industry honors its drivers this week.


Senate Commerce Committee member Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) goes rock star and shows off her gym skills.

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