A Senate panel will mark-up a bill that would promote the use of self-driving vehicles on Oct. 4. Commercial trucks are excluded from the legislation. (Photo: Federal Highway Administration)

Senate bill on self-driving vehicles excludes trucks

Oct. 1, 2017
Mark-up on legislation scheduled for Oct. 4

Leaders with the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee announced they reached an agreement on legislation overseeing self-driving vehicles that excludes commercial trucks.

The Senate bill is similar to one the House unanimously passed  in September that would allow automakers sell thousands of autonomous vehicles, provided they demonstrate they are as safe as current vehicles with human controls.

The House bill also excluded vehicles above 10,000 lbs. A mark-up of the Senate bill is scheduled for Oct. 4.

“This legislation proposes commonsense changes in law to keep pace with advances in self-driving technology,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the committee. While Thune had previously expressed support for trucks to be included in a bill, excluding them was part of a compromise with Democratic Sen. Gary Peters.

American Trucking Associations expressed disappointment trucks were not included in the legislation.

ATA president and CEO Chris Spear said “if more automated cars and trucks are to share the roads, they should also share the same framework.”

Labor unions have mounted a campaign against the inclusion of trucks, suggesting it could cost jobs.

“This approach will give Congress more time to thoroughly examine how driverless technology will impact the jobs, wages, and safety of bus and truck drivers, and develop a plan to address these concerns,” said AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Larry Willis.

Robbie Diamond, president and CEO of Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), praised the bill for establishing “a clear policy framework to advance the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles. This technology will improve roadway safety, increase transportation access and independence for seniors and individuals with disabilities, and advance fuel efficiency and fuel choice, ultimately reducing our dangerous dependence on oil.”

Similarly, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said it will “help advance self-driving technologies and help keep the United States at the forefront of these innovations.”

About the Author

Neil Abt

Neil Abt, editorial director at Fleet Owner, is a veteran journalist with over 20 years of reporting experience, including 15 years spent covering the trucking industry. A graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., he began his career covering sports for The Washington Post newspaper, followed by a position in the newsroom of America Online (AOL) and then both reporting and leadership roles at Transport Topics. Abt is based out of Portland, Oregon.

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