Kentucky lawmakers override veto of autonomous vehicle legislation

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Trucking news and briefs for Thursday, April 18, 2024:

Kentucky lawmakers override veto of autonomous vehicle bill

After Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed a bill that would have cleared the way for fully-autonomous, driverless vehicles – including trucks – to operate in the state, lawmakers overrode the veto, allowing the bill to become law.

HB 7 was passed by the state’s House and Senate before being shot down by the governor. It clears a regulatory path for fully autonomous vehicles without a human driver to operate, as long as the vehicle meets certain conditions. 

Beshear, in vetoing the bill, said it “does not fully address questions about the safety and security of autonomous vehicles, nor does it implement a testing period that would require a licensed human driver to be behind the wheel” for passenger vehicles. The bill did require a testing period with a driver to be present for trucks with a declared gross weight and any towed unit over 62,000 pounds through July 31, 2026.

“Opening Kentucky's highways and roads to fully autonomous vehicles should occur only after careful study and consideration and an extensive testing period with a licensed human being behind the wheel, which is what other states have done before passing such law,” Beshear added.

The Kentucky House voted 58-40 to override the veto, and the state Senate voted 21-15 to override.

[Related: Teamsters, California lawmakers reintroduce push for bill to require human operators in AV trucks]

Florida’s request for CDL skills testing flexibility denied

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has denied a request from Florida officials for an exemption from certain provisions in the CDL skills testing regulations.

In December, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) asked FMCSA for a waiver that the three-part CDL skills test be administered and successfully completed in the following order: pre-trip inspection, basic vehicle control skills, and on-road skills.

The department wanted to allow the tester, at their discretion, to continue testing an applicant who failed the pre-trip inspection or basic vehicle controls segments of the test and allow the applicant to come back at a later date to retake the failed segment(s) only. FLHSMV said the exemption “would allow compliance staff to better utilize their time and resources in completing the required monitoring of third-party testers.”

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The Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA) and National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) voiced support for the exemption during the public comment period.

In denying the request, FMCSA said it “believes that conducting the elements of the CDL skills test in the required order (i.e., pre-trip inspection, vehicle control skills test, on-road skills test) is the best practice for the safety of the CDL applicant, the examiner, and any motorists who must share the public roadway with the CDL applicant during the on-road portion of the CDL skills test.”

FMCSA added that current regulations already provide flexibility for retesting, depending on when the failure in the three-part CDL skills test happens. If a candidate fails the pre-trip, they must come back to take the entire test. If they pass the pre-trip but fail the vehicle control portion, they must return to repeat the vehicle control portion and take the on-road test. Finally, if a candidate passes the pre-trip and vehicle control portions but fails the on-road test, they only have to return to repeat the on-road test.

“The sequence of the skills test ensures that an applicant has demonstrated sufficient knowledge and skills to safely attempt the next step in the testing process,” FMCSA concluded. “The current regulations also provide flexibility, in that generally, applicants are not required to retake portions of the test which have been successfully completed. Moreover, with the implementation of the federal Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) requirements, the agency believes [states] should see a reduction in the percentage of applicants who fail portions of the CDL skills test.”

[Related: Florida wants waiver from certain CDL skills testing regs]

Freightliner produces 1 millionth Cascadia

Freightliner recently celebrated a significant milestone with the production of the 1 millionth Freightliner Cascadia – the first Class 8 truck in North America to reach the seven-figure mark, the company said.

“For more than 80 years, Freightliner has been dedicated to serving its customers with purposeful and innovative transportation solutions to help businesses succeed,” said David Carson, SVP of sales and marketing at DTNA. “When the Freightliner Cascadia launched in 2007, it was designed to do exactly that, and we are incredibly grateful to our customers who have placed their trust in the Cascadia and Freightliner to help us reach the 1 million mark. With our flagship Cascadia, our commitment to making a safer, cleaner, and more cost-efficient solution for our customers has never wavered. And we are not done yet.”

What started as an idea to develop a truck with new aerodynamic, lightweight, and uptime-improving features has since evolved through four generations of the platform, the company noted. Its innovations have been designed for driver comfort, increased safety, and reduced fuel consumption. Notably, since its original introduction, the Cascadia has improved its fuel efficiency by more than 35%.

Freightliner noted that the Cascadia is serving as the vehicle base for the SuperTruck initiative, the multi-year co-funded project by the Department of Energy (DOE) that investigates next-generation technologies for heavy-duty commercial trucks and potential product integration into series production trucks. The battery-electric Freightliner eCascadia, which launched in 2022, has today driven over 6 million real-world miles with customers across more than 50 fleets in the U.S.

Daimler Truck has also designed an autonomous-ready Cascadia with redundant safety features, which include braking and steering for a truck tailor-made for autonomous driving functionalities and prepared for the integration of any virtual driver. Currently, the autonomous-ready Cascadia is being tested as a self-driving truck in real-world operations by Torc Robotics, an independent subsidiary of DTNA since 2019, setting standards for safety on the road. 

Tech firm establishes driver advisory board for eliminating distracted driving

NoCell Technologies, the leading supplier of solutions to mitigate the use of cell phones while behind the wheel of commercial vehicles, announced the establishment of the NoCell Driver Advisory Board.

The Board is comprised of acclaimed professional drivers who are committed to helping improve safety on roadways by eliminating distracted driving, the company said. This group understands the need for technology solutions for the trucking industry and, as importantly, the essentialness of properly communicating the benefit of technology for the driver.

The new advisory board will provide feedback to the NoCell Technologies team on current technologies and issues with adoption, and help determine the best way to share technology advancements with professional drivers.

The NoCell Driver Advisory Board is composed of six truck drivers and trucking industry professionals:

  • Tom Ball, Dedicated Transportation Manager at Ruan Transportation (CCJ Top 250, No. 31).
  • Daniel Clark, an owner-operator who hauls local reefer for Classic Carriers. He has been a professional driver for more than 16 years and has more than 2.5 million miles under his belt. He won the 2023 Truckload Carriers Association Driver of the Year award.
  • Anthony Eck, an independent contractor with Prime Inc. (No. 16). He has been a professional driver for 25 years and has 2.5 million accident-free miles behind him. He placed first in the Utah State Truck Driver Championship in 2023 and has been nominated twice for the TCA Driver of the Year award.
  • Thomas Miller, an independent contractor who hauls regional freight for Prime Inc.. He has been a professional driver for 30 years and has nearly 4 million accident-free miles. He serves as an America’s Road Team captain, on the Prime Driver Advisory Board and is an ambassador for the Independent Contractor’s Coalition. He was named TCA’s 2014 Independent Contractor of the Year and the 2016 Missouri Trucking Association Driver of the Year.
  • Emily Plummer, an owner-operator who hauls over-the-road reefers for Prime Inc. She has been a professional driver for 24 years and has driven more than 3.25 million miles. In 2024, she was named as an American Trucking Association’s Road Team Captain. She is also the recipient of the 2023 TCA Driver of the Year award.
  • Charles Smith, a lease operator who hauls over-the-road reefer for Prime Inc. He has been a professional driver for seven years, trains new drivers, and has driven nearly 1 million miles. He serves on the Prime Driver Advisory Board and has been named Prime’s No. 1 Fleet Driver.