Watch Now

FMCSA proposes new requirements for driverless trucks

Carriers may need to notify government of plans to operate Level 4 and 5 vehicles

New rules could eventually apply to trucks with technology developed by Waymo (above) and other companies. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

WASHINGTON — The federal government is taking the next step toward regulating highly automated trucks with a proposal that will consider requiring carriers to notify the government if they plan to operate such vehicles in interstate commerce.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Wednesday will issue a new supplement to an advance notice of proposed rulemaking issued in 2019 to help the agency assess costs and benefits of any future formal rulemaking for trucks using Level 4 and Level 5 automation — those that do not require a human driver behind the wheel.

In addition to the notification requirement, the supplement, Safe Integration of Automated Driving Systems (ADS)-Equipped Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs), also considers requirements for remote assistants who monitor autonomous trucks, as well as potential new vehicle inspection and maintenance requirements.

FMCSA points out in the new proposal that while it is continuing to look at the potential risks and safety benefits of lower-level automation (Levels 0-3) — considered “driver-assist” technology — it does not see a need to revise regulations to integrate that equipment because it requires a human driver to be behind the wheel at all times.

“The focus of this notice is Level 4 and 5 ADS-equipped CMVs because it is only at those levels that an ADS can control all aspects of the dynamic driving task without any expectation of an intervention from a human driver,” FMCSA stated.

Among questions the agency is asking the public related to motor carrier notification:

  • Should FMCSA require motor carriers operating Level 4 or 5 ADS-equipped CMVs to notify the agency before operating those vehicles in interstate commerce without a human driver behind the wheel? What potential methods or procedures should be established?
  • Before operating in interstate commerce, should motor carriers be required to submit information, data, documentation or other evidence that demonstrates carriers seeking to operate Level 4 or 5 ADS-equipped CMVs have appropriate safety management controls in place?
  • What data should FMCSA collect and maintain regarding Level 4 or 5 ADS-equipped CMVs engaged in interstate transportation? How should such information be used?

FMCSA defines “remote assistants” as “a human who provides remote information or advice to an ADS-equipped vehicle in driverless operation in order to facilitate trip continuation when the ADS encounters a situation it cannot manage.”

The supplemental proposed rule asks for comment on the extent to which federal rules that apply to commercial drivers — such as hours of service, drug testing and physical qualifications — should also apply to remote assistants and if remote assistants should be required to hold a CDL.

Regarding vehicle inspection and maintenance, FMCSA notes that because Level 4 and 5 automated trucks can potentially operate almost continuously except for refueling and maintenance, it is therefore considering whether additional inspection requirements would be appropriate.

“At the same time, roadside inspections of Level 4 or 5 ADS-equipped CMVs would be uniquely challenging in the absence of a human driver to engage in the inspection process,” such as testing the braking system, lighting functions, FMCSA contends.

The agency is asking for public comment on related questions, including:

  • Should Level 4 or 5 ADS-equipped CMVs be subject to pre-trip inspection requirements for their mechanical and ADS components … including those which might necessitate new inspection equipment?
  • What technical barriers exist to conducting conventional roadside inspections (which require interactions with the human driver) of Level 4 or 5 ADS-equipped CMVs and what approaches currently exist or might be developed to remove them?
  • If Level 4 or 5 ADS-equipped CMVs are not subject to state roadside inspections, how would law enforcement agencies and motor carriers ensure that such CMVs are not used to engage in unlawful activity, e.g., human trafficking and cargo theft?
  • Should Level 4 or 5 ADS-equipped CMVs be subject to additional post-trip inspection requirements for the mechanical or ADS components?

Comments on the proposal are due March 20.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.


  1. Bert

    Well I know technology is growing this way but it should not be allowed for trucks to be driven on the highway without a human in them they carry heavyweight all the time they can be very deadly things happen in trucks and humans need to be in them to control it therefore the ADS system Has its place in The industry but it is not out on the highways better places for Them is the ports and pears railroad and things like that where they can be controlled and watched and continuously maintenance because it will cause a problem out on the interstate highways it should not be allowed

  2. Stephen Agbale

    These are the results of total absence of laws to control affluence decision-making in society. first Nothing about this new innovations called self driven trucks makes sense. why these trucks be having steering wheels,seats, seats belts and bunks etc.. if they are self driven, are those made to be occupied by ghosts?
    Secondly nature can never be cheated; if greed is what compelling the carriers by introducing this
    solutions to generate super normal profits and keep drivers out of business, I promise it will never work!! These trucks might have numerous safety features but still can’t compare human intelligence because it’s made by humans.
    In conclusion whatever entity approved these regulations had it’s selfish purposes and must be questioned. FMCSA should know better than that!
    I wish I could give a negative star 🌟 on this package.

  3. Ben Aragon

    Pre-trip,post-trip,visual inspections,road conditions affecting tires, general movement of the unit, tire side walls, braking in adverse weather,chains, so on and so on. The individual sitting in a cubicle manning the operations of the vehicle(i.e. bathroom breaks,meal breaks, h.o.s.,general attentiveness due to boredom, cdl requirements(i.e. do s and don’t s, general cmv knowledge). The list can go on. Just because a human driver is not physically operating it, means it can move with less requirements and legal obligations as a manned cmv is.

  4. Gary Broughman jr

    I also agree that computer ran truck should be held to the same standards as a human driver maybe higher standards.I still believe every truck should have a human driver as well.80000 pounds rolling down vail pass unmanned that I think is recipe for disaster

  5. Gary Broughman jr

    My thoughts are this:you will never be able to eliminate the human factor in the transportation industry,At the beginning,middle and the end of each trip a human will have to intervene.machines do not have gut instincts or moral best it’s only going to be as good as it’s human yes I think if are responsible for the safety of a unmanned truck you should have a CDL,maybe a college degree

  6. Jr. Fremont

    Okay, how is the truck like this going to chain up if need be..?
    Those trucks just like any other trucks are going to have cold leaks in the winter time that the truck does not know because there’s not a sensor letting it know that it’s dripping…! What about wheel seals ?
    Truck can’t see a wheel seal Leaking.
    I believe all trucks to be under the same rules roadside inspections included because those trucks will have things that go bad just like the trucks that got drivers in them if not more problems.
    I don’t believe this is the way to go I think there still needs to be a driver in the truck behind the wheel at all times.

  7. Corry Witt

    Driverless trucks are not the answer to safety computer’s break down our elogs malfunction at times you guys are trying to push out the working man/woman that has bills to pay this technology isn’t the answer especially with the different types of weather conditions and different things we encounter out here on the road you folks that never lived in a truck needs to take a 2 month trip and then you can see what we deal with that a computer can’t deal with then maybe your way of thinking will change it’s gonna be rolling death machine for everyone around not a good idea

  8. Linda Bass

    I understand they have already been operating across the south. That’s all good but how does the ads handle inclement conditions? Until recently there haven’t been any in the south. As far as pre & post trips yes they should be required to do the same as a human truck driver. Mechanical failures are going to happen even in a computer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.