This week, the House Highway and Transit Subcommittee will hold a hearing about the future of autonomous trucks.
No truck drivers were invited to testify at the hearing being conducted in the middle of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association didn’t hold back in its criticism of the committee’s failure to provide truck drivers a voice in a conversation about the industry’s future.
“Mega carriers can hardly wait to replace millions of American truck driving jobs with autonomous trucks in order to save a buck,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer said last week. “The fact that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee would hold a hearing without any professional drivers to highlight autonomous trucks in the middle of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week is a kick in the teeth to the hardworking men and women behind the wheel who keep America’s supply chain running every day.”
The hearing, titled “The Future of Automated Commercial Motor Vehicles,” will begin at 10 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday, Sept. 13. You can watch it here.
OOIDA’s criticism of the glaring oversight didn’t end there. On Monday, Sept. 11, the Association sent a letter to the leaders of the subcommittee: Chairman Rick Crawford and Ranking Member Eleanor Holmes Norton.
“It is National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, but you wouldn’t know it from the subcommittee’s hearing on the future of autonomous or automated trucks,” OOIDA wrote. “It is bad enough this hearing is being held during a week that is supposed to thank truckers for their dedication, commitment and the many challenges they overcome, as is (the week’s) stated mission. But it is completely inexcusable to hold this hearing without a witness to represent the millions of professional drivers who will be affected by the deployment of these vehicles. Nothing says ‘thank you’ like denying you a seat at the table for a discussion about how to take away your job.”
The truckers’ perspective
In addition to calling out the oversight, OOIDA used the letter as a way to ensure that truck drivers’ voices are entered into the autonomous trucking conversation.
“There is not a single representative of drivers participating in this hearing, so we want to ensure committee members hear truckers’ voices about the development and deployment of autonomous or automated trucking technology,” the Association wrote.
OOIDA outlined safety concerns regarding recent autonomous crashes and a lack of transparency regarding testing.
The Association also cautioned lawmakers that they shouldn’t grant special regulatory privileges to autonomous trucks.
“To be clear, OOIDA has long advocated for greater flexibility from the dizzying and often counterproductive array of safety regulations that force our members to work amidst more challenges and less safety,” the Association wrote. “Professional drivers are justifiably frustrated at the potential for the federal government to loosen regulations to help test new technology that will one day replace them on our roads.” LL