OOIDA submits comments to Oregon DOT’s autonomous vehicle task force

July 31, 2018

Tyson Fisher


On Wednesday, Aug. 1, the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Task Force on Autonomous Vehicles will meet for a long-term policy workshop. Making sure that the needs of truckers are being addressed, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association submitted comments to the task force on Tuesday, July 31.

In a letter to ODOT, OOIDA President Todd Spencer pointed out to the task force that autonomous technology can drastically change the trucking industry. Spencer noted that federal and state governments need to be careful when drafting policies as truckers are likely to be the first to experience shortcomings and deficiencies in the technology.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao recognized that autonomous technology can present a challenge to the nearly 4 million drivers with a CDL, according to the letter. With commercial drivers delivering 70 percent of all freight, valued at nearly $12 trillion, policies put together too quickly risk harming the trucking workforce and consequently affecting the economy negatively.

Safety is another concern for OOIDA.

“Regardless of their potential, it is important to understand the safety implications automated vehicles will have on public roadways,” Spencer said in the letter. “Despite the various claims that (autonomous vehicles) will lead to zero deaths, news articles and case-studies have presented real-world situations in which automation has devastatingly failed.”

Addressing issues presented in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s automated driving systems guidelines, OOIDA wants to see total data transparency from manufacturers, including mandatory safety reports. NHTSA’s guidelines include voluntary safety reports that are mostly self-regulated.

Other concerns include cybersecurity, a deteriorating infrastructure, congestion and increased pavement damage.

On April 10, Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill into law directing ODOT to take the lead on the state’s automated vehicle policy, creating the Task Force on Autonomous Vehicles. ODOT is to report legislative recommendations by September.

The task force includes a variety of stakeholders, including law enforcement, state government, the Oregon Trucking Association, unions and manufacturers.

The two-hour long-term policy workshop on Wednesday will include one hour of speakers, 10-15 minutes of public comments and 35-40 minutes of discussions regarding 2019 task force considerations.