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September 25, 2020 2:15 PM, EDT

FMCSA Denies Pronto.ai’s HOS Exemption Request

Interior of Pronto autonomous carPronto.ai's Copilot advanced driver assistance system undergoing a test in a car. (Pronto.ai via Vimeo)

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has denied an application from Pronto.ai Inc. requesting a renewable five-year exemption from the 11-hour driving limit and the 14-hour driving window in the agency’s hours-of-service requirements.

In April, Pronto asked that drivers operating commercial motor vehicles equipped with Copilot by Pronto advanced driver assistance systems be allowed to drive up to 13 hours during a period of 15 consecutive hours after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty.

FMCSA said Pronto did not demonstrate that the requested exemption would likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent the exemption.

“According to Pronto, its distinctive combination of advanced safety technologies would help reduce physical and mental driver stress, thereby allowing a modest increase in certain HOS parameters,” FMCSA’s announcement Sept. 25 said. “Pronto believes that the same technologies would provide additional levels of safety by reducing the risk of the driver becoming drowsy or distracted and assist the driver in maintaining safe and proper control of the CMV.”

Pronto stated that drivers and carriers operating under the exemption would achieve a high level of safety as a result of improvements from mandatory use of the sophisticated advanced driver assistance system that identifies highly inattentive or nonresponsive drivers and brings the truck safely and gradually to a complete stop. Also, the company’s fatigue-monitoring and alerting system, SmartSense, provides real-time in-cab alerts to the driver and triggers a video for immediate verification and intervention by the carrier, Pronto said.

“FMCSA is not aware of data or information that would enable the agency to determine whether the advanced technology described by Pronto reduces the workload for CMV drivers to such an extent that additional driving time during the work shift should be allowed, or that individuals should be allowed to operate an extended work shift,” the agency said.

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FMCSA added, “Based on the numerous research studies concerning fatigue and hours of service that the agency has reviewed in recent years, we do not believe there is a basis for allowing individuals to drive up to 13 hours during a work shift, or operate after the 14th hour after coming on duty [except during adverse driving conditions].”

Pronto’s request drew more 300 comments, primarily from individuals, but also from prominent industry trade groups. A total of 294 commenters opposed the exemption request, the announcement said.

Opponents included:

  • Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
  • California Highway Patrol.
  • Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
  • Institute for Safe Trucking/Road Safe America.
  • International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
  • Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association.
  • Transportation Trades Department American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
  • Transport Workers Union of America.
  • Truckload Carriers Association.
  • United States Transportation Alliance.

“Commenters that opposed the exemption believe the lack of safety metrics for ADAS poses a risk to the public,” the announcement said. “The commenters also noted the lack of a federal framework to ensure that any transition to automated driving system technologies is done in a measured, secure and responsible manner to protect people traveling on our roadways.”

Opponents also believed that granting the exemption would give Pronto an unfair competitive advantage to carriers that utilize its product.

Supporters believe the exemption would be in line with the recent HOS changes proposed Aug. 22, 2019, and adopted June 1.

“Another point emphasized by a supporting commenter was that the agency could impose a list of conditions, if the exemption were granted, in addition to the conditions listed in Pronto’s own application,” FMCSA said.

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