Revising Tailgating Laws to Allow for Truck Platooning Technology
Autonomous truck technology is advancing rapidly. The first obvious signs of this technology on our roads may be in the form of truck platooning. At DriverSource, we have always supported new technologies in our industry that will improve efficiencies AND safety. From our viewpoint, platooning promises to enhance trucking in both these areas.
Platooning is where digitally tethered convoys of two or more trucks travel closely together to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency. Moving in a group (or platoon), each truck is equipped with smart technology enabling them to communicate with one another while they travel in close formation at the same speed. In addition to improved fuel efficiency, platooning is expected to improve traffic safety. The ability to break or accelerate simultaneously at a much faster speed than possible by the use of human drivers means reaction distance is less and fatalities from crashes are reduced.
State Laws Must Be Changed Before Platooning Can Take Place
Existing tailgating laws on the state level need to be revised for platooning to allowed. Over the last four years, nearly two dozen states have enacted reforms in their tailgating laws to allow for commercial platooning deployments.
State legislators generally feel that platooning promotes economic, safety, and environmental benefits. Changing the laws governing “following too closely” rules requires each state to evaluate their specific FTC rule types and vehicle classes.
The three vehicle classes are cars, heavy trucks, and caravans. While state-specific FTC rule types vary, the most common are (1) reasonable and prudent, (2) time, (3) distance, and (4) sufficient space to enter and occupy without danger.
The FTC rule type “distance” is common among the heavy truck class and pertains to the distance a driver has to maintain between his heavy truck and the vehicle in front of him (i.e. 20 feet for every 10 miles per hour of speed).
Also common among the heavy truck class is the FTC rule “sufficient space to enter and occupy without danger” rule, which aims to allow other vehicles a safe distance to pass the truck and enter and exit the roadway.
Most Legislators Support the Changes Needed
It’s hard for legislators to ignore the business case trucking companies are making in support of platooning. A key benefit is the anticipated fuel savings. Nationwide, most state officials are voting overwhelmingly in favor of changing laws to allow platooning.
Mark Scribner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute studied platooning and summarized the legislative changes taking place within the states this way –
“If the momentum keeps up, I think five years is entirely reasonable to get the entire country on board. You talk to these legislators. They realize how simple the fix is.”
Bill D for DriverSource