Gibbs & Fuerst, LLP

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FMCSA panel addresses autonomous truck safety concerns

California residents may be aware that self-driving vehicles may be in their future. With technological advances in vehicle technology, however, come questions and concerns regarding roadway safety. When commercial trucks enter the discussion, safety concerns often escalate.

In April at the annual Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance workshop, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration held a panel to address questions about tractor-trailer safety in the wake of emerging autonomous driving technology. Truck drivers, representatives from various state trucking associations and FMCSA officials all took part in the discussion. Topics included the possibility of driver fatigue in manned autonomous trucks, hours of service and vehicle behavior in near-crash or hazardous situations.

According to FMCSA representatives, there are five levels of autonomous systems used today, with Level 5 considered "near fully automated". Lower levels of autonomy typically require a driver to be more engaged and involved in vehicle operation. While several panelists noted that the technology is not quite road-ready, they emphasized the need for special training for truck drivers who operate automated light- and heavy-duty vehicles.

The FMCSA does not require additional licensing or endorsement for autonomous CDL operations, reports indicate, and panelists were divided on whether or not regulations should be put in place. Proponents of keeping current regulations in place said that current CDL training is sufficient while opponents cited safety concerns including the possibility of common truck malfunctions, such as tire blowouts, as reasons that autonomous commercial trucks should be regulated more strongly than self-driving passenger cars.

The possibility of serious injury or death following a big rig accident is a reality all drivers face when they share the road with commercial vehicles, whether autonomous or manned. Those who have been injured in a truck accident may wish to consult with a personal injury attorney to discuss their options.

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