In May, a Florida driver of a car equipped with self-driving technology was killed when his vehicle going 65 mph slammed into a tractor-trailer without ever slowing down. Investigations continue to determine what if anything went wrong with the technology.
Just imagine how many more people could suffer if the scenario included a deadly accident involving multiple commercial trucks that were equipped with similar assisted-driving technology. Fortunately, Missouri drivers have dodged this scenario, at least for several months, thanks to the actions of the state’s top leader.
Missouri Governor Vetoes Truck Platooning
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon recently vetoed HB1733, a law passed by the Missouri legislature that would allow testing of assisted-driving technology in tractor-trailers. The technology would have been used for truck “platooning.” Truck platooning is when two trucks follow each other very closely – typically within 50 feet. The wireless technology in question synchs the trucks’ braking and acceleration, which, in theory, would make this practice “safe.”
Is Assisted Driving Technology in Large Trucks Safe?
While it doesn’t completely cede control of the big rig from the trucker, the technology that enables truck platooning could make truck drivers dangerously inattentive behind the wheel. That is a concern in the Florida fatal motor vehicle accident. Investigators don’t know yet if the car driver assumed the technology would keep him safe and therefore did not take reasonable precautions.
The trucking industry strongly advocates for truck platooning. The main reason should not be a surprise: to improve a trucking company’s bottom line.
Supporters of truck platooning say it will cut gas use for the two trucks. A study released earlier this year by the American Transportation Research Institute – an arm of the nation’s largest trucking lobbying outfit – indicated that the front truck could save as much as 5 percent on fuel and the second truck as much as 10 percent.
Assisted driving technology in vehicles weighing thousands of pounds may make financial sense for trucking companies, but it is questionable when it comes to protecting public safety. Missouri lawmakers may revisit the issue when the state’s legislature reconvenes in January 2017.
With or without truck platooning, Missouri drivers every day are subject to the hazards of truck driver errors and truck company negligence. If you had a family member die or if you were seriously injured in a crash involving a commercial truck, contact an attorney who represents victims of trucking accidents to review your case.
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