Much ado has been made about self-driving trucks over the last few years, and yet most mainstream companies have been slow to implement autonomous vehicles into their delivery fleets. All that is likely to change after this year, however. Major grocery chains like Kroger are beginning to offer same-day delivery services via autonomous trucks. Here in Oklahoma, independent grocer Buy For Less has recently partnered with self-driving truck service Udelv to offer grocery delivery services in Oklahoma, which will begin operating early next year.
This partnership is the very first of its kind in Oklahoma, and Buy For Less is also one of the first independent grocery companies to offer this type of service. But while autonomous deliveries may help address the crisis of food deserts here in the Sooner State, there are concerns that self-driving trucks will also increase the risk of truck accidents for Oklahoma drivers. Do these concerns have any merit, and if so, what can drivers do when they become injured in accidents with self-driving trucks?
What Risks Do Self-Driving Trucks Pose to Drivers?
Truck accident-related injuries and fatalities are already on the rise across the country. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2016, there were more than 119,000 truck accidents that resulted in injury nationwide. This represented a disturbing increase from the previous year, where only 90,000 truck accidents resulted in driver injury. Now the NHTSA estimates that fatalities from both trailer tractor accidents and accidents with single-unit trucks have increased again, by nearly 19% in some cases.
Some experts attribute the increase in fatal truck accidents to a heightened demand for fast deliveries, coupled with an ongoing truck driver shortage. This combination may be causing truck carrier companies to push their drivers too hard, causing accidents by means of truck driver fatigue.
With such grim statistics, it’s difficult to see how self-driving vehicles – which are already infamous for causing accidents – could improve this situation. Quite the contrary, it seems possible that an influx of driverless trucks delivering groceries would only place drivers in more danger. While proponents of autonomous trucks claim it would actually limit accidents by reducing driver fatigue, others point to the disappointing results of self-driving vehicle tests in California. According to the data, more than 30 accident reports have been filed since California first allowed testing in 2014.
The Question of Liability: Who Is Responsible for Driverless Trucks?
Of course, one of the most salient questions about autonomous vehicles concerns their legal liability. It’s already difficult to determine liability in truck accident cases, because there are so many parties involved: From the carrier company to the truck manufacturer to the driver, a truck accident case commonly has multiple defendants, each with varying degrees of liability.
In an accident with a self-driving truck, liability would depend on the degree to which that truck is actually self-driving. Most autonomous vehicles still require some driver input, but the Udelv trucks employed by Buy For Less will be totally driverless. This means the parent companies, the manufacturer, and any Buy For Less agents could be defendants in a prospective injury lawsuit.
Time will tell if the phenomenon of self-driving trucks will cause more accidents in Oklahoma City and throughout. If you do become injured in an accident with a self-driving truck, you can contact our skilled Oklahoma truck accident lawyers at Martin Jean & Jackson. With more than 100 years of combined experienced and millions won in successful outcomes for our clients, we promise to fight for maximum results for your injuries.
Contact us today at for a consultation. We serve clients in Ponca City, Tulsa, and Stillwater.