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Trucker’s action, lack of access to AV manual controller cited as causes of wreck

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The autonomous shuttle involved in an accident with big rig is shown in this National Transportation Board report. It was a two-axle, battery-powered, test vehicle designed primarily for autonomous operation and therefore did not have a steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator pedal. (Courtesy: NTSB)

WASHINGTON — The truck driver’s actions and the autonomous vehicle attendant’s lack of easy access to a manual controller are cited in the probable cause of a November 8, 2017, minor collision between a commercial truck and an autonomous shuttle in Las Vegas.

There were no injuries to the seven passengers and one attendant aboard the shuttle or to the driver of the truck. The accident caused minor damage to the lower left front of the shuttle’s body and a minor abrasion to the truck’s tire.

“The NTSB would normally not investigate a minor collision, but the involvement of a highly automated vehicle warranted having our investigators examine the circumstances surrounding the collision,” said Kris Poland, deputy director of the NTSB’s Office of Highway Safety. “We wanted to examine the process of introducing an autonomous shuttle onto public roads as well as the role of the operator, the vehicle manufacturer, and the city. The NTSB also examined the technology and the safety considerations that were in place at that time.”

The autonomous shuttle was a two-axle, battery-powered, test vehicle designed primarily for autonomous operation and therefore did not have a steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator pedal. The shuttle allowed for manual operation using a hand-held controller. The shuttle could operate autonomously only on a predetermined route that had been fully mapped. The route was planned by Keolis (a public transportation service operator), Navya (the shuttle manufacturer) and AAA (sponsor of the shuttle) with input from the city. Navya and Keolis had the required state and federal approval to test autonomous shuttle operations on public roads.

The collision happened after the shuttle turned from Carson Avenue onto South 6th Street, where the truck was backing into an alley. The truck driver said he saw the shuttle turn onto 6th Street and assumed it would stop a “reasonable” distance from the truck.

According to Navya’s incident report, the shuttle’s sensor system detected the truck at 147.6 feet and tracked it continuously as it backed up. Programmed to stop 9.8 feet from any obstacle, the shuttle began to decelerate when it was 98.4 feet from the truck. When the shuttle was 10.2 feet from the truck and nearly stopped, the attendant pressed one of the emergency stop buttons. The attendant and passengers waved to gain the truck driver’s attention but 11 seconds after the shuttle stopped, the right front tire of the slow-moving truck struck the shuttle.

The shuttle was equipped with numerous sensing devices that provided a 360-degree view of the environment with hazard detection capabilities. Some of the sensing devices included eight light detection and ranging (lidar) sensors, two stereoscopic cameras and a differential global positioning system. The shuttle was also equipped with a dedicated short-range communication system and a long-term evolution antenna that communicated with traffic signals along the route. Navya could monitor the shuttle’s performance in real time from its control center in Lyon, France. The shuttle was equipped with a Lytx DriveCam monitoring and recording device that tracked driving metrics and recorded telematic and visual information triggered by critical events.

The NTSB said prior to the collision the hand-held controller for manual operation was stored in an enclosed space at one end of the passenger compartment and the attendant did not retrieve the controller during the event. Since the accident, Keolis implemented a new policy to make the controller more accessible, allowing attendants to remove the controller from storage at the start of a trip and keep the controller available throughout a trip.

 

 

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The Nation

Can you say oversized load!

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That is big!

 

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The Nation

Diesel prices all but stagnant nationwide, less than 2-cent shift anywhere

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The average price for a gallon of diesel nationwide fell by 0.7 cents for the week ending July 22, to currently stand at $3.044 per gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The lack of movement in diesel prices continues a pattern that has been going on for the past month. On June 24, diesel was at 3.042, with changes of less than 1.5 cents every week in between.

Though tiny, the movement in diesel prices was nearly unanimous this past week, down in all but one region of the country.  That one exception was the Rocky Mountain region, where diesel rose 0.3 cents, to $2.978. Year-to-date, diesel prices are lower in every region, with the Rocky Mountain region again being the standout, having the greatest difference, 39.1 cents from this time last year.

California made it a clean sweep for lower diesel prices year-to-date with a drop of 1.3 cents this past week, to $3.939, still by far the highest in the country, but 0.4 cents below this time last year.

Along the rest of the West Coast, diesel dropped 1.1 cents to $3.198, bringing the overall West Coast average to $3.611 per gallon.

The average along the East Coast is currently $3.072, with prices highest in the Central Atlantic, where diesel is going for $3.259 after a 1.3-cent drop. Diesel is $3.122 in New England following a decrease of 0.9 cents over the past week, while in the Lower Atlantic region diesel slipped by 0.4 cents to stand at $2.937 per gallon.

That’s still slightly better than the Midwest, where diesel is going for $2.948 per gallon after a drop of 0.8 cents. Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast, the low-price leader in diesel, fell by the same 0.1 cent it gained the week before to stand at $2.804.

On Monday, increasing tensions between Iran and Western countries failed to produce a sharp reaction in the crude oil markets. Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 98 cents, or 1.57%, to settle at $63.45 a barrel. U.S.-based West Texas Intermediate crude rose 59 cents, or 1.06%, to settle at $56.22 a barrel.

Click here for a complete list of average prices by region for the past three weeks.

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DOL opinion letter: Time in sleeper berth does not count as compensable time

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The Department of Labor says the time a truck driver spends in the sleeper berth is not compensable time. Pictured in the Peterbilt 579 UltraLoft sleeper berth. (Courtesy: PETERBILT MOTORS)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor said Monday said it had determined that time spent in the sleeper berth by professional truck drivers while otherwise relieved from duty does not count as compensable time.

The DOL issued the determination in a written opinion letter by the department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) on how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by the individual person or entity that requested the letter.

The American Trucking Associations lauded the opinion.

“ATA welcomes Monday’s opinion letter from DOL Wage and Hour Division Administrator Cheryl Stanton that concluded time spent by a commercial driver in the sleeper berth does not count as compensable hours under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, unless the driver is actually performing work or on call,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “This opinion, which is consistent with decades-old DOL regulations, the weight of judicial authority, and the long understanding of the trucking industry, clears up confusion created by two recent court decisions that called the compensability of sleeper berth time into question.

Significantly, this opinion letter provides new guidance, the DOL said.

Under prior guidance, the DOL said WHD interpreted the relevant regulations to mean that while sleeping time may be excluded from hours worked where “adequate facilities” were furnished, only up to eight hours of sleeping time may be excluded in a trip 24 hours or longer, and no sleeping time may be excluded for trips under 24 hours.

“WHD has now concluded that this interpretation is unnecessarily burdensome for employers and instead adopts a straightforward reading of the plain language of the applicable regulation, under which the time drivers are relieved of all duties and permitted to sleep in a sleeper berth is presumptively non-working time that is not compensable,” the opinion letter said. “There may be circumstances, however, where a driver who retires to a sleeping berth is unable to use the time effectively for his or her own purposes. For example, a driver who is required to remain on call or do paperwork in the sleeping berth may be unable to effectively sleep or engage in personal activities; in such cases, the time is compensable hours worked.”

The ATA commended Acting Secretary Patrick Pizzella and Stanton for adopting a straightforward, plain-language reading of the law, rather than the burdensome alternative interpretation embraced by those outlier decisions.

“ATA also commends the department for making guidance like this available through opinion letters, which provide an opportunity for stakeholders to better understand their compliance obligations prospectively, rather than settling such matters only after the fact, through costly and wasteful litigation,” Spear said.

 

 

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