Today’s Pickup: Autonomous trucks take center stage at Senate hearing today

Good day,

Following passage of a House bill last week that set the framework for autonomous automobiles, trucking gets its chance to state its case today in front of a Senate committee.

The Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will live-stream the hearing, which begins at 10 a.m. Eastern time. Expected to testify is National Safety Council CEO Deborah Hersman, American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear, and Colorado State Patroller Col. Scott Hernandez.

“Self-driving technology for trucks and other large vehicles has emerged as a pivotal issue in Congress’ attempt to help usher in a new era of transportation,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said in a statement.

The group Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), which advocates for the “swift and safe deployment of self-driving vehicles on our nation’s public roadways,” has called on NHTSA to remove barriers to the integration of advanced driver assistance systems.

“As the Senate continues to discuss the pivotal issue of self-driving technology and what it means for trucks and other large vehicles, it is important to understand how existing technologies could significantly increase cost-savings and efficiency within the industry—as well as save thousands of lives,” the group said, adding that “the federal government should encourage testing and pilot projects for advanced technologies that save lives, fuel, and money.”

SAFE estimates that platooning alone could save 20 billion gallons of fuel through 2050.

Did you know?

Freight deliveries by trucks are expected to increase 40% through 2040.


“I’m concerned about highway safety. I am concerned about jobs. I am concerned we are moving too fast in a very, very strategic area that we have to make sure we are doing it right because lives are involved.”

James P. Hoffa, Teamsters president, on autonomous trucks

In other news:

Trucking to the rescue

For the second time in three weeks, trucks filled with relief supplies are rolling into an area ravaged by a major hurricane. Hear what some truckers are saying about the efforts. (LandLine)

C.H. Robinson offers Transflo ELD

C.H. Robinson has made the Transflo ELD available to its carrier base through a special agreement with the supplier. (Heavy Duty Trucking)

Heavier trucks are not the answer

BlueGrace Logistics lays out a case in its company blog for why heavier trucks is not the answer to improving truck efficiency. (BlueGrace Logistics)

U.S. household incomes rise

According to Census Bureau data, median U.S. household incomes rose to a record high of $59,039 in 2016 and the poverty rate fell. (Transport Topics)

Auto inventories continue to rise

Auto inventories, including parts, rose in July 0.6%, the third straight month they have risen by that amount, according to the Commerce Department. (Reuters)

Final Thoughts

While the House of Representatives was widely praised last week for passing a bill to streamline development of autonomous cars, the exclusion of trucks in the bill is notable. The Senate is discussing trucks today, but there is no assurance they will be included in any final bill, even though commercial vehicles will likely be the first large-scale adopters of the technologies.

Hammer down everyone!

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.