The Fuse

Trucking, Autonomy, and Energy Security

by SAFE Policy Team | September 13, 2017

As Congress debates the future of autonomy in commercial trucks, Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) is previewing its upcoming report on future trends and technologies that can help guide the trucking industry to reduce fuel use, enhance safety and increase efficiency throughout the sector.

Why it Matters

We Need Trucks: The U.S. transportation system moves $53 billion dollars of goods every day.
Freight’s Fuel Consumption: At only 4 percent of the U.S. fleet, medium- and heavy-duty trucks account for 22 percent of daily petroleum consumption.
Future of Freight: Trucks are the future of the American economy. Freight deliveries by truck are expected to increase by 40 percent through 2040.
Platooning: SAFE modeling shows that the widespread use of existing platooning technologies could save up to 20 billion gallons of diesel fuel through 2050.
Safer Roads: Truck crashes are more fatal than those involving passenger vehicles. Despite recent improvements in safety, over 4,000 people died in crashes involving trucks in 2015. That same year, nearly half a million truck crashes were reported. Integration of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) into trucks will save lives.
Savings for Industry and Consumers: Morgan Stanley has estimated that widespread adoption of autonomous trucks could save the freight industry $168 billion annually, with significant savings passed on to consumers.
Cutting Oil Consumption: Tests on trucks using early ADAS technology showed fuel savings of over 3 percent. Higher levels of automation will likely lead to even greater savings.
Understanding Labor Risks: There is currently a shortage of approximately 50,000 truck drivers. Autonomous and ADAS technology can make the trucking industry more attractive to workers by improving safety and comfort for drivers.

As the Senate continues to discuss the pivotal issue of self-driving technology and what it means for trucks and other large vehicles, it is important to understand how existing technologies could significantly increase cost-savings and efficiency within the industry—as well as save thousands of lives.

Policy Recommendations

National Policy: Trucks are a nationwide industry that need clear, modernized rules that enable innovation.
Evaluating Technology: As NHTSA studies ADAS and other technologies that enable automation for passenger vehicles, unnecessary barriers should not bar integration into the heavy-duty segment.
Enabling Technology: The federal government should encourage testing and pilot projects for advanced technologies that save lives, fuel, and money.

In just the last week, the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) have moved quickly in an attempt to address uncertainty, enhance safety and remove unnecessary barriers that may inhibit the potential for autonomous technology in our country’s future transportation system.