November 9, 2017 5:45 PM, EST

National Autonomous Policy Would Benefit Trucking Industry, ATA Official Says

ATA's Mike Cammisa Cammisa by Eugene Mulero/Transport Topics

WASHINGTON — Developing a singular autonomous vehicle policy nationwide would facilitate testing of automated trucks and connected vehicle technologies, a senior official with American Trucking Associations said Nov. 9.

“Having some certainty that there won’t be some special rules popping up in a particular state that might be in the middle of the other two states you’re driving through, you know, it’s important for that certainty,” said Mike Cammisa, vice president of safety policy and connectivity at ATA.

The interstate commerce aspect of this issue is very important to the trucking industry, and companies cannot afford to plan and proceed with a testing deployment of autonomous trucks in one state only to learn they cannot proceed into another, he explained, at an event hosted by the fuel-efficiency advocate Securing America’s Future Energy.

Cammisa added the industry’s objective is to test vehicles on the road to be able to produce data that helps answer remaining questions about the technology. The industry as represented by ATA continues to emphasize that autonomous trucks will lead to improvements in safety, emissions and productivity, as well as efficiency and driver wellness.

In October, ATA adopted its policy on the development of automated trucks. A 21-point policy outlines the federation’s position on the emerging technologies. A key position maintained by ATA is that drivers will retain a role in automated trucks.

ATA also agreed the regulatory landscape of performance and technical specifications of automated and connected trucks should be handled at the federal level.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently updated its voluntary automated commercial and passenger vehicle guidance for manufacturers and states seeking to deploy self-driving vehicles. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao emphasized potential safety benefits that autonomous vehicles could produce across the transportation network.

On Capitol Hill, transportation policymakers opted to proceed with legislation in the House and Senate on autonomous vehicles that left out truck-centric provisions.

Manufacturers are proceeding with a lineup of trucks that are capable of operating autonomously, and are not waiting on Congress to approve self-driving policy for the industry. A self-driving truck developed by a subsidiary of Uber Technologies Inc. last year hauled beer on Interstate 25 in Colorado, marking a historic event industrywide. Other states continue to perfect the technology, and industry leaders intend to proceed with an aggressive testing agenda in 2018.