Three states make rule changes to accommodate truck platoons

August 5, 2019

Keith Goble

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States around the country are implementing new rules on the use of autonomous large vehicles and other changes to accommodate driver-assistive truck platooning technology.

In recent years more than two dozen states 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.

In Louisiana, one new law now in effect covers autonomous truck rules.

Since Jan. 1, Louisiana law has exempted truck platoons from the state’s large vehicle following distance rule. The rule defines the distance as within 400 feet on a highway.

One new law in effect Aug. 1 specifies written rules of the road that self-driving large vehicles will need to follow. Specifically, autonomous trucks must be able to follow all federal and state traffic laws. Additionally, affected vehicles must be registered and have a minimum liability coverage of $2 million.

The same rule applies to driverless trucks that are remotely operated.

Louisiana lawmakers said it is important to set rules on the use of autonomous trucks to put the state “on the cutting edge” of the technology.

Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, said it is an economic opportunity for the state.

A rule change in North Dakota also covers large vehicle following distances.

Effective Aug. 1, the state prohibits a driver from following another vehicle more closely than is “reasonable and prudent.”

The revision relaxes the rule solely for platoons.

In bordering Minnesota, a new rule in effect covers vehicle following distances.

Specifically, the rule change effective Aug. 1 permits platooning trucks to be exempt from the state’s minimum following distance rule – 500 feet.

Keith Goble

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.