A bill is sitting in the Senate transportation committee that would allow commercial trucks with computer-assisted braking technology to drive in “platoons” in which trucks would draft each other, saving fuel and reducing the footprint the vehicles take up on the road.
House Bill 716 passed in the House in the days leading up to the crossover deadline, when many bills were getting passed through without much discussion, but will seemingly get more careful consideration in the Senate.
The bill passed 116-3 in the House a couple days before the crossover deadline.
The one-page bill would exempt commercial motor vehicles traveling in a platoon with other commercial motor vehicles from the state law governing tailgating, if the vehicle were equipped with the platooning technology. The technology is similar to cruise control but also includes automated braking to make it safer to travel so close together.
Across the nation platooning is becoming a reality. Daimler Trucks North America opened its proving grounds for truck technologies this week in Oregon.
The nearly $19 million facility includes a 3.5-mile track to test out platooning technology, autonomous driving technology and other innovations in overland shipping.
Currently there are 21 states with specific following-distance rules that must be legislatively overridden to allow for platooning. Michigan and Arkansas have done so.
North Carolina falls into the category of the remaining 29 states that maintain a requirement that drivers leave a “reasonable and prudent” distance from other drivers. This does not expressly rule out platooning, but an acknowledgment in the law would remove questions about what distance would be reasonable and prudent under the law when it comes to platooning.
Any pending or past tailgating offenses would not be negated by the bill of it were to become law.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston), would become effective at the start of the fiscal year July 1.