FMCSA Forum Outlines Agency’s Current, Future Research
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Plans for significant rulemaking proposals, in-depth studies and data collections in 2023 and beyond were the topics of discussion at this year’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s annual Analysis, Research and Technology Forum.
Top agency officials said plans are underway to soon offer rulemaking proposals for heavy vehicle speed limiters, automatic emergency braking systems, safe integration of automated driving systems and a safety fitness rule to identify unfit motor carriers.
The virtual four-hour research session was April 12.
The session also included updates on research underway on a driver compensation study, a driver detention time study, and a $30 million several-years-long large truck crash causation study.
“Technology has a potential to improve people’s lives, and to save lives on our roadways,” FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson said in a kickoff speech to the forum. “And to the degree it can do that, we should be ready to use it in the safest way possible. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the incremental transition to the way drivers are assisted with technology when they’re driving, and in the national conversation about automation.”
Hutcheson added, “We have a great policy in the National Roadway Safety Strategy. And we have galvanized efforts across FMCSA, DOT and our industry and stakeholder partners. We also have the Biden-Harris Trucking Action Plan, which is reducing barriers to getting more drivers CDL licenses. The third pillar is the bipartisan infrastructure law.”
FMCSA’s current and future research projects also include a look at whether the minimum insurance requirement should be raised above the current $750,000 minimum that has been in place since 1985, and a study in how to catch CDL holders attempting to avoid loss of their licenses for bad inspections or traffic and legal violations. In addition, the agency is planning research on the effectiveness of the Entry Level Driver Training rule and third-party testing, and taking a look at how well the safe driver apprenticeship pilot program is going so far.
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Agency officials also said they will be researching the effectiveness of automated driving systems, advanced driver assistance systems and also applying leading-edge technology to roadside enforcement and inspection operations, research initiatives that could dramatically alter how drivers interact with their vehicle, how commercial motor vehicles are inspected, and how potential future assisted driver system vehicles may interact with law enforcement and other public entities.
Key research program activities for automated vehicles include electronic inspections, human factors in ADS-equipped CMVs, work zone safety, emergency response and on-road driving performance evaluation, according to Mike Lukuc, an engineer with FMCSA’s technology division.
Research on the ADS onboard data monitoring of safety-critical data analysis systems will include forward collision warning, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and pedestrian collision warning.
Bob Kreeb, director of FMCSA’s Office of Analysis, Research and Technology, said his office will continue to focus on research that addresses safety challenges for carriers, drivers and motor vehicle equipment.
“While ADS vehicles continue to mature, we know that human drivers will support motor vehicle operations for many, many years to come,” Kreeb said. “So we’re going to continue to focus a good portion of our research on driver issues and improving driver safety.”
One FMCSA research project, known as Level VIII inspection testing, will allow inspections to be conducted electronically, while vehicles are in motion. Researchers say the program, which could be controversial, will collect more data on motor carriers, reduce traffic congestion at inspection points, and save time for carriers and drivers. The agency said it is aiming to begin on-road testing in calendar year 2023.
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“Level VIII inspections are a type of inspection conducted electronically while the vehicle is in motion without direct interaction with an enforcement officer,” said Tom Kelly, an FMCSA transportation specialist. “The vision for level VIII inspections is that they collect more data about the carrier and driver, including CDL status and hours-of-service compliance. This data is then electronically checked against national data compliance databases in real time without human interaction.”
The agency’s Innovative Technology Deployment safety mission grant program will feature research to apply cutting-edge technology to improve highway safety and efficiency, said FMCSA transportation specialist Leroy Taylor. The Innovative Technology Deployment could feature such new technologies as driver compliance cameras, electronic credential automation, vehicle out-of-service issue detection, and vehicle tire safety screening, Taylor said.