FMCSA prepares for automated trucks during ART forum


During the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Analysis, Research, and Technology  Forum, FMCSA leaders discussed what they are working on, giving truckers a glimpse of what the future of the industry may look like.

FMCSA officials spent four hours discussing what their respective departments are up to regarding truck safety improvement. For the most part, FMCSA is gearing up for a future with self-driving trucks. However, that will require a ton of research that address questions that remain unanswered.

FMCSA’s upcoming rulemakings

Although much of the conversation at FMCSA’s ART Forum deals with issues that are many years away, Larry Minor, FMCSA’s Office of Policy associate administrator, explained what the agency has brewing in the regulatory pipeline.

The below actions are in the prerule stage, which consist mostly of FMCSA asking questions before deciding how to move forward. For more information about actions, go to

Safety fitness procedures (regulation identification number 2126-AC52)

FMCSA plans to seek information on how the agency might use data and resources more effectively to identify unfit motor carriers and to remove them from the nation’s roadways. FMCSA is looking for public comments about the use of available safety data, including inspection data, in determining carrier fitness to operate.

Additionally, FMCSA seeks public input on possible changes to the current three-tier safety fitness rating structure (satisfactory/conditional/unsatisfactory). The action also would include a review of the list of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations that FMCSA uses in its safety fitness rating methodology.

Unique electronic identification of commercial motor vehicles (RIN 2126-AC54)

The safety agency plans to request public comment on potential amendments to FMCSRs to require every truck operating in interstate commerce to be equipped with an electronic device capable of communicating a unique identification number when queried by a roadside system.

Automatic emergency braking systems (RIN 2126-AC49)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be seeking comments on a proposal to require and/or standardize equipment performance for automatic emergency braking systems on heavy trucks (2127-AM36).

That rulemaking is expected to propose performance standards for automatic emergency braking systems on heavy trucks and accompanying test procedures for measuring the performance of the braking systems in NHTSA compliance testing. In support of that rulemaking, FMCSA is seeking information and comment concerning the maintenance and operation of AEB by motor carriers.

Safe Integration of Automated Driving Systems – Equipped Commercial Motor Vehicles (RIN: 2126-AC17)

FMCSA plans to propose amending certain FMCSRs to ensure the safe introduction of automated driving systems-equipped trucks. The proposed changes to the truck operations, inspection, repair, and maintenance regulations prioritize safety and security, promote innovation, foster a consistent regulatory approach to automated driving systems-equipped trucks, and recognize the difference between human operators and automated driving systems.

Preparing for self-driving trucks

The entire second half of the forum focused on automated vehicles and the challenges they face ahead.

Dr. Missy Cummings, NHTSA’s senior adviser for safety, briefed attendees on artificial intelligence and transportation. Taking a more practical look at self-driving trucks, Cummings noted issues that need to be addressed before they are introduced commercially on the roadways.

Among the biggest issues is what Cummings referred to as “erroneous object detection,” cameras not correctly recognizing a certain image. For example, one of the most common neural networks used by autonomous truck manufacturers identified a bus as a train, suggesting that some of the most important functions are flawed. Similarly, automated vehicles are having difficulty detecting and navigating work zones. Cummings suggested that AI software undergo a “vision test” much like human drivers are required to do.

Cummings also suggested that Level 4 and 5 automated trucks be clearly labeled in such. According to Cummings, student drivers in England are required to have a green “P” on their vehicle, allowing nearby motorists to adjust their driving accordingly. That same kind of attention is needed for autonomous trucks, Cummings argued.

Look for a deep dive into FMCSA’s ART Forum in the May issue of Land Line Magazine. LL

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