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Concerns Loom Over Freight Truck Cruise-Control Technology

Truck platooning is the linking of two or more trucks in convoy as a method of increasing the capacity of roads. (Pixabay)
Truck platooning is the linking of two or more trucks in convoy as a method of increasing the capacity of roads. (Pixabay)
August 3, 2018

CHICAGO – Advocates for new cruise-control technology for freight-hauling trucks say it could save money on fuel and consumer costs, but opponents of the technology believe it could put others on the road in danger.

The system would allow "platooning," the term for freight trucks tailing each other using wireless connections to detect leading and following vehicles. Josh Witkowski, state legislative coordinator with the motorcyclists' advocacy group "A Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education" (ABATE), says there are a lot of issues with the potential change.

"There are very serious safety concerns with the technology,” says Witkowski. “There are safety concerns with the way that it presents on the roads; there are reliability concerns."

An Illinois House bill (HB 4654) would have allowed use of the cruise-control system, but it stalled in committee this spring. As proponents try to revive the issue, Witkowski says he hopes lawmakers will instead require strict testing before putting lives at risk on roadways.

Some neighboring states already allow the technology, including Indiana, Kentucky and Wisconsin.

One of the main safety concerns is the close proximity of the platooning trucks, making it difficult for other drivers to change lanes. But advocates of the technology say it could save about 7 percent on fuel costs.

While some lawmakers may be skeptical of the technology, Marc Scribner, senior fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute – a libertarian think tank that's pushing its use – says they are most likely familiar with it.

"Legislators, if they have cars made in the last decade, they likely have experienced adaptive cruise control firsthand, and know that this isn't some sort of crazy futuristic technology," says Scribner.

To get that technology into freight trucks in the state, Illinois legislators would need to make an exemption for freight trucks in tailgating laws. And they might be reluctant, considering the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's data that almost one-third of all rear-end collisions are caused by vehicles following too closely.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - IL