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Report Urges Actions to Limit Disruption from Autonomous Trucks

A new report issued by the International Transport Forum outlines the advantages – and challenges – that emerging autonomous vehicle technology will present in the coming years.

ITF is an intergovernmental think tank with 59 member countries that focuses on global transport policies.

According to the report, trucking companies in North America and Europe are projected to need 6.4 million drivers by 2030, but autonomous technology could reduce the demand for some of those jobs. The report also found that autonomous trucks will help save costs, lower emissions and make roads safer.

However the ITF says governments should begin considering ways to manage the transition to autonomous trucks.

The report makes four recommendations to help manage the transition to autonomous road freight:

  • Establish a transition advisory board to advise on labor issues
  • Consider a temporary permit system to manage the speed of adoption
  • Set international standards, road rules and vehicle regulations for self-driving trucks
  • Continue pilot projects with driverless trucks to test vehicles, network technology and communications protocols

Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, the Canadian Trucking Alliance and American Trucking Associations continue to have discussions with governments and stakeholders about the emergence of autonomous technology.

ATA president and CEO Chris Spear testified this week in front of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation about the importance of including commercial vehicles in the discussion around automated vehicles.

In his testimony, Spear attempted to “unwind some of the myths about automation and our industry. He also stressed that “trucking needs to be at the table as the roadmap for automated vehicles is being written.”

“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,” he said. “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.”

Because of trucking’s key role in the supply chain, Spear told the panel that as the framework for how automated vehicles will be overseen, commercial vehicles must be included along with passenger vehicles.

“We are at a critical moment in the development of autonomous technology,” he said. “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.”

Among several recommendations, Spear also urged the government to set uniform national rules of the road for automated vehicles, but at the same time not to suppress innovation.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance shares many of those sentiments. Representatives plan to appear next week before the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, which is preparing a special study on the regulatory and technical issues related to the deployment of connected and automated vehicles in Canada.

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