Pronto exemption would put drivers at risk, OOIDA says

May 21, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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An autonomous trucking technology company’s exemption request from FMCSA’s hours-of-service requirements would put drivers at risk by exposing them to more hours behind the wheel, OOIDA wrote in formal comments to the FMCSA.

In a notice that published on April 20, Pronto.ai requested a renewable five-year exemption from the 11-hour driving limit and the 14-hour driving window. 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,” be allowed to drive up to 13 hours in a 15-hour window.

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

On Wednesday, May 20, OOIDA submitted its comments in opposition of Pronto’s exemption request.

Technology ‘can actually increase the risk’

“Pronto’s exemption request asserts that vehicles equipped with advanced driving systems such as automatic emergency brakes, adaptive cruise control, driver-facing cameras and lane departure warning systems all enhance safety,” OOIDA wrote. “In reality, these technologies come with their own dangers, and we would argue that they can actually increase the risk of a crash in many cases.”

OOIDA said most automatic emergency braking systems are designed to only work at low speeds. The Association also cited a 2019 study by the American Automobile Association that said “automatic emergency braking systems with pedestrian detection perform inconsistently, and proved to be completely ineffective at night.” OOIDA said the challenges are even more pronounced for commercial motor vehicles.

Driver-facing cameras also won’t benefit safety, according to OOIDA.

“Besides the inherent privacy concerns, inward-facing cameras are another example of costly technology systems that offer no safety benefit and are simply another distraction in the cab,” OOIDA wrote. “Many of the various behaviors that driver-facing cameras are intended to correct can be better addressed through robust driver training programs.”

OOIDA also questioned Pronto’s logic for how its technology would mitigate driver distraction and inattentiveness.

“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.”

The public comment period for Pronto’s exemption request ended May 20. According to the Regulations.gov website, the request received 257 comments. Dozens of the comments came from individual truck drivers who oppose the exemption.

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.