FMCSA denies tech company’s exemption request

September 25, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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After receiving nearly 300 comments in opposition, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration denied an autonomous trucking technology company’s exemption request from the agency’s hours of service.

In a notice that is scheduled to publish in the Federal Register on Monday, Sept. 28, FMCSA denied Pronto.ai’s request for a renewable five-year exemption from the 11-hour driving limit and the 14-hour driving window.

“FMCSA has analyzed the exemption application and the public comments and determined that the applicant has not demonstrated that the requested exemption would likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent the exemption,” the agency wrote.

As part of a notice that was published in April, Pronto asked for drivers equipped with the Copilot by Pronto advanced driver assistance systems, the SmartDrive Video Safety Program, and “operating under certain other safeguards,” to be allowed to drive up to 13 hours in a 15-hour window.

Pronto’s rationale was that its technologies “greatly mitigate the risks of driver distraction and inattentiveness and assist the driver in maintaining safe operations.”

According to FMCSA, the agency received more than 300 comments with 294 of those – mostly from individuals – opposed the tech company’s request.

“Commenters that opposed the exemption believe the lack of safety metrics for advanced driver-assistance systems poses a risk to the public,” FMCSA wrote. “The commenters also noted the lack of a federal framework to ensure that any transition to automated driving system technologies is done in a measured, secure and responsible manner to protect people traveling on our roadways.”

OOIDA comments

OOIDA opposed the exemption, saying it would put drivers at risk by exposing them to more hours behind the wheel.

“Pronto’s exemption would increase the time-on-task without any real justification other than drivers will be driving longer but will have less stress because of safety systems that only work if the driver is fatigued,” OOIDA wrote.

“Given the unproven safety benefits of advanced driving systems and their effects on driver fatigue, FMCSA must reject Pronto’s exemption. Granting this exemption would put drivers at risk by exposing them to more hours behind the wheel. As the U.S. Department of Transportation considers the framework for automation in the surface transportation system, federal regulators must ensure automated vehicle policies are developed in a responsible manner that takes into account the safety and perspective of American truckers.”

Another denial

FMCSA also denied a request from a company asking for its short-haul drivers to be exempt from the electronic logging device mandate.

Right-A-Way wanted its drivers to be able to use paper logs when they work for more than eight days in a 30-day period. Current regulations allow short-haul drivers to use paper logs if they are only required to log their status fewer than eight days in a 30-day period. LL

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Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.