(Sept. 21, 2017) — The Canadian Alliance told a senate committee in Ottawa it welcomes the progression of connected and driver assist technology in commercial vehicles, but that such innovation will not come at the expense of truck drivers.

Appearing before the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, CTA VP of Communications & New Media, Marco Beghetto, said that advancements in vehicle automation will not displace the hundreds of thousands of professional men and women who operate commercial trucks. In fact, such technology would potentially make operating a commercial vehicle more inviting and accessible to a new generation drivers.

The committee is preparing a special study on the regulatory and technical issues related to the deployment of connected and automated vehicles (CVs and AVs). The study considers the long-term implications and challenges of these technologies, such as the impacts on privacy, energy, land use, transportation demand and employment.

Beghetto cautioned the Committee not to interchangeably refer to these innovations as ‘autonomous’ or ‘driverless’ as they’re commonly labeled in mainstream media and investment circles. Instead, he urged government to consider the term Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) to describe the array of cutting-edge technologies being deployed presently and in the future.

“Technology will not replace commercial vehicle operators. Technology and training aids the future truck operator,” said Beghetto. “The new modern high-tech truck will introduce many changes to our industry, but the foreseeable future is not about the driverless truck, but rather the integration of trained professional drivers into a cab with innovative technology.”

Likening the automated evolution of trucks to the airline industry, Beghetto insisted that regardless of the level of automation, trucks – like planes – will always need pilots.

“As advanced driver assistance systems technologies evolve with commercial vehicles, drivers will still play a key role, no different than in aviation,” he said.

He explained to the Committee that a truck driver is required to do much more than hold a steering wheel. They control access to the vehicle, maintains security, balance loads, secure cargo, manage TDG placards and paperwork, communicate with first responders, conduct pre-trip and enroute mechanical and cargo related inspections, address mechanical breakdowns at roadside, communicate with customers, fuel the truck, and deal with border crossing processes.

With the advent of ADAS will come demand for a new generation of highly skilled, technically adept equipment operators. Beghetto said policies like Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT) – currently practiced in Ontario – combined with ADAS would improve driver safety performance tremendously.

Beghetto said that provincial and federal regulations and policies must work in tandem to ensure that ADAS technology is maximized safely and efficiently. He stressed that consistency and compatibility with traffic management systems across various jurisdictions is key.

Furthermore, to ensure Canada keeps pace with the rate of ADAS innovation and industry adoption in other countries, he suggested government consider incentives for early adopters while accelerating the development of vehicle/safety/manufacturing standards consistent with the U.S. He added that it’s instrumental CTA and its supply chain partners are at the forefront in assisting government in the development a national framework for automated vehicles.

“There’s no doubt the advent of ADAS is a game changer for the trucking industry. The possibilities are endless,” said Beghetto. “However, let’s do away, once and for all, with the myth that these technologies will undoubtedly supplant our nation’s workforce of truck operators. Rather, let’s work towards ensuring the new breed of drivers to our industry are as safe and professional as our current workforce.”