ATA Tells Congress Benefits of Automation In Trucking

by Jake Tully - Published: 9/13/2017

Although some sources view the term "automation” as a disagreeable word in the trucking industry, the American Trucking Associations stands as a major player that does not share the same outlook.

Earlier this week, ATA President and CEO Chris Spear reportedly testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation regarding the role commercial trucks may play in the developing field of automation, asking the Federal government to shy away from inhibiting autonomous technology.

In his testimony, Spear argued that trucking and automation may have a negative correlation for unfounded reasons and spoke to the importance of trucking entering a growing field.

"Federal agencies and state governments must commit to supporting innovation for both commercial and passenger vehicles, using existing regulatory exemptions to allow manufacturers and technology companies to test and develop new systems," said Spear before the Senate Committee. 

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According to Spear’s testimony to the committee, the current national reliance on trucks for freight transportation is a factor that is unlikely to see a great deal of change due to automation.

Additionally, Spear testified that autonomous technology and driverless technology are not interchangeable, affording drivers to play an important role in the field of autonomous vehicles.

"While some people use the terms 'autonomous' and 'driverless' interchangeably, ATA believes the world of automated vehicles will still have an important role for drivers," said Spear. "Just as pilots play a key role in our airline industry, truck drivers will do the same on the ground by leveraging the benefits of automated technology while navigating the cityscapes and handling the customer pickups and deliveries."

According to Spear, as technology and guidelines for autonomous passenger vehicles emerges it is vital for commercial vehicles to keep up with developments.

Spear argued that due to the key role trucks play in the commercial supply chain, it is also important for commercial vehicles to stay updated alongside passenger vehicles.

"We are at a critical moment in the development of autonomous technology," said Spear. "There are many questions to be answered – including those about cybersecurity, about the impact on trucking operations and how vehicles will interact with one another, and about infrastructure. What is clear is that those questions should be answered for commercial and passenger vehicles at the same time."

The ATA reports that among several recommendations that Spear made to the Senate Committee, enforcing universal guidelines is paramount to operation while still allowing companies to have room for innovation.

To read Spear’s full testimony as presented to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, visit the ATA’s site.