Four states make rule changes to accommodate truck platoons

June 27, 2019

Keith Goble


Multiple states will implement revised statutes in coming days that cover minimum requirements for vehicle following distances. The changes are being made to accommodate driver-assistive truck platooning technology.

There are about 30 states that have taken action to permit testing of autonomous trucks. The rule changes often require amendments to large vehicle following distance rules.

Advocates say truck platooning saves fuel due to reduced aerodynamic drag, lessen traffic congestion, and improve highway safety. Some supporters acknowledge it works best on relatively flat, divided highways outside of populated areas.

Critics question how automated vehicles and traditional vehicles will interact on roadways. Others doubt whether widespread use of the technology is realistic.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center reports that Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations are likely to get in the way of automated technology.

Iowa statute reads that no large truck may operate within 550 feet of another truck.

A new law approved by the Legislature earlier this year does away with the distance minimum for autonomous trucks. The rule change takes effect on July 1.

Similarly in South Dakota, law states that a driver shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is “reasonable and prudent.” Specific to trucking, the rule defines the distance as within 550 feet on a highway.
Effective July 1, a revised rule signed into law by Gov. Kristi Noem permits platooning vehicles to travel within the restricted distance between vehicles.

Across the state line in North Dakota, the reasonable and prudent provision also is included for vehicle following distances.

The revision relaxes the rule solely for platoons. The new rule takes effect on Aug. 1.

In bordering Minnesota, the Legislature acted during a special session to approve a lengthy bill that includes a provision on vehicle following distances. Specifically, the rule change permits platooning trucks to be exempt from the state’s minimum following distance rule – 500 feet.

The change takes effect Aug. 1.

Lucas Oil

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.