Industry News

Trial of driverless trucks on hold after eleventh-hour protest

Transurban hit the pause button on the launch of its driverless trucks trial in Melbourne after an eleventh hour protest by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) yesterday.

The six-month trial had been scheduled to begin last night, but Transurban told Big Rigs it has delayed the start while “discussions” continue with the TWU.

The union called for an immediate stop to the “shambolic” trials until “proper consultation processes” are established with the state government, industry, and community stakeholders.

“Due to a lack of consultation with necessary stakeholders, this trial will result in major delays to the critical distribution of freight,” the union said in a statement.

The TWU believes that no automated heavy vehicle should be placed on public roads until there is unanimous agreement from government officials, the industry, and the community that these vehicles are safe.

The TWU also criticised the current trials for not adequately demonstrating the ability of these technologies to interact safely with human drivers, pedestrians, and other road users.

“The recent sneaky strategy of notifying the public through mere lane closure alerts via Linkt is highly alarming and indicates gross mismanagement and lack of transparency,” the union claimed.

Mem Suleyman, the union’s Victoria/Tasmania branch secretary, said the trials could also lead to delays to freight, including vital supplies.

“The community’s safety and the futures of our truck drivers are jeopardized due to this poorly executed plan,” Suleyman said.

“It’s unacceptable that these trials are being pushed by corporations that continue to disadvantage our hard-working mums and dads that work day in, day out to carry Victorians.”

The union said further consulation also needs to address safety evaluations, ethical implications, and community concerns comprehensively.

TWU is also demanding full transparency and involvement of the workforce in discussions about the implementation and impacts of automated trucks.

“Transport is Australia’s deadliest industry, and the introduction of untested technologies could lead to even more tragedies,” added Suleyman.

A Transurban spokesperson said the trial has been months in the making, including consultation with a wide cross-section of stakeholders and communication with customers.

There has also been briefings and industry events for stakeholders to learn more about how smart road technology can help keep our growing cities moving in the future.

The plan for on-road trial activity follows months of rigorous testing at the Australian Automotive Research Centre, before the vehicles were approved by the Department of Transport and Planning and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to drive on-road, the spokesperson added.

According to the Transurban’s project website, there will be two driverless Iveco S-Way AS550 trucks used in the trial and they will travel between 10pm and 5am on a dedicated lane not open to other traffic.

The full route extends from the Port of Melbourne, along CityLink through the Burnley Tunnel and the Monash Freeway to Dandenong and back again.

Each truck would carry a supervising driver and engineer on board at all times.

Transurban ran a similar trial at the end of 2022 over three weeks.

With road freight in Australia expected to grow by around 65 per cent in the next 25 years, Transurban said the trial will help it, industry and governments understand what the future of road freight transport can look like, particularly for safety and congestion, as these technologies progress over the coming decades.


The post Trial of driverless trucks on hold after eleventh-hour protest appeared first on Big Rigs.

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