OOIDA asks Chao to include truckers on automation committee

February 13, 2017

Greg Grisolano


The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is asking Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to reopen the nominating process for a federal committee tasked with addressing automation within the transportation industry.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s federal advisory committee on automation has 25 members from the realms of manufacturing, politics, education, retail, insurance and Silicon Valley. But the board has no small business truckers or owner-operators in its ranks.

In a Feb. 6 letter to Chao, OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer wrote that the lack of driver representation on the committee was disappointing, especially when anywhere from 4 to 6 million truckers may find themselves displaced by driverless vehicles.

“Unlike many of the industries currently represented on the advisory committee, professional drivers are unlikely to experience significant economic gain under the looming autonomous revolution,” Spencer wrote. “Absent the unique perspective of small business truckers, the panel will struggle to appreciate the full impact automation will have on our economy and achieve its goal of making our transportation network more fair, reliable and efficient.”

The committee was announced Jan. 11 and had its first meeting on Jan. 16. The committee will provide the Department insight and guidance on the development and deployment of automated vehicles, while identifying research, policy and regulatory opportunities to help advance the technology in a safe and responsible manner. American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear is on the committee, which is co-chaired by General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Spencer’s letter noted that OOIDA represents small business truckers, who comprise 90 percent of the trucking industry, while single-truck enterprises account for approximately 50 percent of total carriers in the United States.

“Encompassing such a large portion of the trucking industry, OOIDA’s members will be deeply affected by the promulgation of autonomous technology,” Spencer wrote. “In the short-term, our members are concerned advanced automation will diminish the quality of their jobs. Not only will the fragmented introduction of technology make the operation of heavy trucks more unpredictable and stressful, but professional drivers will also face inconsistent driving conditions as passenger car owners adjust to the new features of their own vehicles.”

Spencer said another reason for having a trucker on the committee is “drivers will likely be the first to experience the technology’s shortcomings or deficiencies outside controlled testing scenarios, creating serious safety concerns for our members and the driving public.”

The current members of the committee are:

  • Co-Chair: Mary Barra – General Motors, chairman and CEO
  • Co-Chair: Eric Garcetti – mayor of Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Vice Chair: Dr. J. Chris Gerdes – Stanford University, professor of engineering
  • Gloria Boyland – FedEx, corporate vice president, operations and service support
  • Robin Chase – Zipcar; Buzzcar; Veniam, co-founder of Zipcar and Veniam
  • Douglas Chey – Hyperloop One, senior vice president of systems development
  • Henry Claypool – Community Living Policy Center, policy director
  • Mick Cornett – mayor of Oklahoma City, Okla.
  • Mary “Missy” Cummings – Duke University, director, humans and autonomy lab, Pratt School of Engineering
  • Dean Garfield – Information Technology Industry Council, president and CEO
  • Mary Gustanski – Delphi Automotive, vice president of engineering and program management
  • Deborah Hersman – National Safety Council, president and CEO
  • Rachel Holt – Uber, regional general manager, United States and Canada
  • Lisa Jackson – Apple, vice president of environment, policy, and social initiatives
  • Tim Kentley-Klay – Zoox, co-founder and CEO
  • John Krafcik – Waymo, CEO
  • Gerry Murphy – Amazon, senior corporate counsel, aviation
  • Robert Reich – University of California, Berkeley, chancellor’s professor of public policy, Richard and Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy
  • Keller Rinaudo – Zipline International, CEO
  • Chris Spear – American Trucking Associations (ATA), president and CEO
  • Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger – Safety Reliability Methods Inc., founder and CEO
  • Bryant Walker Smith – University of South Carolina, assistant professor, School of Law and (by courtesy) School of Engineering
  • Jack Weekes – State Farm Insurance, operations vice president, innovation team
  • Ed Wytkind – president, transportation trades department, AFL-CIO
  • John Zimmer – Lyft, co-founder and president