Missouri governor vetoes truck platooning effort, cites 'unproven technology'

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 7/11/2016

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has turned back an attempt to authorize driver-assistive truck platooning technology on state highways.

State law now prohibits truck and bus drivers from following another such vehicle within 300 feet. Affected drivers are also prohibited from following another vehicle more closely than is “reasonably safe and prudent.”

House and Senate lawmakers voted to advance a lengthy bill to the governor that includes a provision to setup a six-year pilot program to exempt from the state law truck platoons of up to two vehicles.

Nixon describes the technology as allowing multiple long-haul trucks to travel in tandem, with less than 50 feet separation, using wireless and radar-based technology to synchronize the braking and acceleration of the two “platooned” trucks.

The Democratic governor acknowledged that automated driving technology has advanced significantly within recent years; however, he said the “long-term safety and reliability of this technology remains unproven.”

“That fact was tragically highlighted with the recent fatality involving a self-driving passenger vehicle,” Nixon wrote in his veto letter.

In that incident, the driver of a Tesla Model S that was in autopilot mode drove itself under a tractor trailer that had crossed a divided highway. The motorist was killed.

“The risks associated with automated vehicles are even greater considering the size of long-haul trucks and the catastrophic damage that could occur if the technology failed,” he said. “Using Missouri highways as a testing ground for long-haul trucks to deploy this unproven technology is simply a risk not worth taking at this time.”
A separate provision in the bill, HB1733, not addressed by the governor in his veto letter covered school bus endorsements. OOIDA had described the provision as “redundant” and “overly harsh.”

As approved by the General Assembly, the bill would impose a lifetime ban on any person who has their driver’s license suspended or revoked twice for any reason.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association shared concerns with the governor about the school bus provision and asked him to veto the bill. In a letter, the truckers’ group said the provision “apparently includes a suspension or revocation for failing to maintain adequate insurance, failure to pay child support, and other things that have nothing to do with a person’s ability to actually drive a school bus.”

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, describes such a provision as overly harsh.

He also notes that Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations already addresses actions that disqualify a person from operating a commercial vehicle. Actions covered include being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, leaving the scene of an accident, and causing a fatality through negligence.

“At best the school bus provision is redundant, if not entirely inappropriate,” Matousek said.

The Association told Nixon if there is an issue with school bus drivers that needs to be addressed, there are more suitable methods.

The issues covered in the legislation can be brought back up for consideration when the General Assembly convenes in January 2017.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Missouri, click here.

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