Today the Biden administration unveiled new legislation targeted at ending the driver shortage once and for all. Nicknamed the “DRIVE Act”, the new bill aims at several causes for the driver shortage, including subsidies for drivers, relaxed restrictions on drivers, increased safe parking nationally for heavy-duty trucks, and one unusual measure that’s receiving mixed reactions from the public.
The pending legislation, which is expected to face heavy debate in Congress, will use Air Force drone technology to pilot trucks for companies struggling to retain safe drivers. Fleets are encouraged to apply here to join the pilot program. Focusing on the timing of the law, President Biden commented, “This new law would help increase our nation’s critical trucking capacity at a time when inflation and Russian aggression have made it harder than ever to deliver goods affordably.” The DRIVE Act, short for Drone Robotics In-Vehicle Automation Act, requires that drones be operated by National Guard personnel to avoid legal challenges of using military forces on US soil. White House aids clarified that the drones would be connected to the truck navigation system, operated remotely by National Guard personnel. According to one military technician, “While autonomous vehicles are still years away from commercial viability, our drone-truck integration enables the vehicles to be operated by anyone from anywhere in the world.”
Congress is divided on the safety of operating trucks remotely, though advocates argue that the military uses state-of-the-art cybersecurity to prevent attacks and that drones have been safely flown all over the world, in a number of different conditions. Although drones are typically used in the air, they can be shrunk smaller and strapped to the back of a truck cab for easy transportation. To avoid increasing accident rates on highways, drone robotics will be deployed first to the fleets with the lowest safety ratings from the FMCSA – replacing drivers with the least training.
According to a statement from the American Transportation Association, “This new program offers a huge leap forward for the trucking industry. Should this pilot program prove successful, remote drone robotics can be applied in other applications including construction, waste hauling, and even mining – imagine a drone piloting yellow iron deep underground!” The White House plans to move quickly with the deployment of the systems.