The truck driving industry in West Virginia and the rest of the nation is likely to see major changes, according to the American Transportation Research Institute. The advent of autonomous trucks will spur major regulatory changes, infrastructure updates and better safety and efficiency.
The ATRI also reports that truck drivers will not need to worry about losing their jobs since the autonomous trucks will still need a human presence. The institute also states that principles of public policy will likely require that human operators remain in the trucks' cabs. The report comes after a Volvo truck that was retrofitted with an autonomous driving system hauled a load of beer 125 miles in Colorado.
According to the ATRI, large-scale implementation of autonomous trucks is unlikely to happen for some time. Roadways will need to be updated so that they have smoother surfaces and improved signs. The public sector would shoulder the responsibility of instituting the highway infrastructure improvements that would be needed before the private sector could switch their fleets to autonomous trucks. When autonomous trucks are widely used, it is likely that hours-of-service rules would no longer be necessary. The ATRI estimates that new trucks with the autonomous systems installed would cost an additional $30,000.
Federal trucking regulations are designed first and foremost for the protection of the public. Currently, many truck accidents are caused by commercial drivers who have nodded off behind the wheel because they went too long before taking a mandatory rest break. People who are injured in such an accident may want to meet with an attorney to see if the trucking company itself can be held financially responsible for their losses in addition to the negligent driver.