It can be somewhat intimidating to see a big-rig truck near you on the road. It can be downright alarming to see a group of them traveling one behind the other very closely. That’s known as “platooning.”
The practice cuts down on fuel (because the trailing vehicles benefit from “air drag,” which is when a large vehicle in front of you lowers the amount of air resistance you encounter. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) says, “Truck platooning deployed across the country is expected to improve national freight movement and the national economy.”
These days, one or more of those trucks may not even have a driver behind the wheel. In the majority of states, autonomous commercial vehicles can legally be present on public roads, with various restrictions in place.
Changes to state law are being considered
Lawmakers in five states, including Kentucky, are considering various bills that would relax regulations on platooning. Currently, truck platooning is legal in Kentucky, and trailing vehicles don’t have to maintain a 2-second distance behind the one directly in front of them. The law, however, mandates that a person must be behind the wheel of any “trailing” vehicle.
A bill currently in the Kentucky House of Representatives would amend the law so that the only truck required to have a human driver would be the lead vehicle in the platoon. This would allow more autonomous trucks to drive on Kentucky’s roads. The proposed legislation would also limit local jurisdictions’ ability to prohibit autonomous trucks.
There are other changes included in the legislation that motorists should be aware of because they could affect liability and compensation if they’re injured by an autonomous truck. The bill states that “the owner of a fully autonomous vehicle shall be considered the operator of the vehicle for the purpose of assessing compliance with traffic or motor vehicle laws.” It also requires a minimum of $1 million in insurance coverage for death, injury and property damage.
If you’ve suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a crash caused by a commercial truck, either one with a driver or an autonomous vehicle, it’s crucial to hold the appropriate parties accountable and seek the maximum allowable compensation. Having sound legal guidance is crucial.