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A French lawmaker has called for a requirement that drivers of consumer trucks and SUVs acquire a special license, in light of how large and dangerous the vehicles have become in recent years.

https://www.thelocal.fr/20230921/french-mep-calls-for-special-driving-licence-for-suvs

Is there any organized group in the United States (or, more broadly, North America) pushing for this type of arrangement?

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    Many countries including Mexico require a special driving licence for a truck weighing over 3.5 tonnes (although not an SUV as far as I know). Are you including that?
    – Stuart F
    Nov 14, 2023 at 16:04
  • @StuartF And in many countries it is for any vehicle above 3.5 tonnes, irrespective of the type. Nov 15, 2023 at 10:38
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 15, 2023 at 23:08
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    The question is based upon a faulty assumption derived from optics. The safest vehicles are almost all midsize SUVs. (See IIHS losses by make and model, click lowest and highest losses, select bodily injury liabiliy) The most dangerous vehicles are cars with a few small SUVs. Accidents are fundamentally led by drivers. Larger SUVs cost more and are purchased by older, experienced drivers. Small cars are purchased by younger, more immature drivers.
    – user71659
    Nov 16, 2023 at 5:10

3 Answers 3

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Is there any organized group in the United States (or, more broadly, North America) pushing for this type of arrangement?

There is no organized group in the United States or more broadly in North America of any significance pushing for this type of arrangement.

I can't definitively rule out the possibility that some college club with six members, or other small, organized group of people, somewhere in North America is pushing for it. But any such group is not pushing strongly enough to make media headlines or attract the attention of even someone who plays close attention to the news.

There are certainly groups out there who are concerned about traffic deaths caused by large consumer market SUVs and trucks, but a special license is not a tool that those concerned about this problem have suggested. Instead, here are two suggestions that are being pressed by organized political movements in the U.S.:

Between May and August, America Walks supporters submitted over 2,700 comments to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in support of two proposals to make vehicles safer for pedestrians. Now the ball is in NHTSA’s court to take action, improve these rules, and finalize them as quickly as possible.

Here’s the scoop on both proposals and what’s next.

Dangerous vehicles shouldn’t get 5-star safety ratings

Pedestrian deaths on our roads are at a forty-year high in the United States and larger unsafe cars and trucks contribute significantly to this crisis. The number of pedestrians killed by pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), vans, and minivans has more than doubled between 2010 and 2021.

In response, NHTSA asked for comments on how to rate cars based on safety for pedestrians through its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), the five-star safety rating program advertised to consumers.

But the agency’s proposal didn’t go nearly far enough. Under its proposal, a vehicle could receive a failing grade for pedestrian crashworthiness, but still earn an overall five-star safety rating, misrepresenting a vehicle as safe when it is not. In addition, the proposal failed to evaluate limited driver visibility, a known safety flaw for larger vehicles, and wouldn’t display pedestrian crashworthiness ratings at the point of sale, where most consumers would see them.

Such a program is sorely needed and long overdue, but it’s imperative to get it right.

That’s why we and our supporters told NHTSA that evaluations should be held to the highest standards and include driver visibility. We also called for the results from pedestrian crashworthiness evaluations to be incorporated directly in NCAP’s star rating system and that they’re visible to the consumer at the point of sale.

Finally, we also asked NHTSA to commit to including standards and technologies that protect people outside cars in an updated Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), the standards that are mandatory in all vehicles.

Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking close to being required in cars

In 2022, thousands of Americans voiced their support for increased Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards during NHTSA’s Request for Comments on its safety rating system – the New Car Assessment Program.

A year later, NHTSA proposed a rule to require all new cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks to have Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking (PAEB) three years after the rule was finalized. Significantly, this rule is close to the finish line, with only two steps remaining before it is final.

PAEB detects pedestrians and applies the brakes before hitting someone. This technology isn’t new. It’s been around for years and government vehicle safety programs across the globe already include PAEB.

America Walks has long called for mature safety technologies like PAEB to be incorporated directly into the required FMVSS that apply to all new vehicles. We applaud NHTSA for taking this action and ask the agency to hold automakers to the highest possible standards of PAEB. The technology deployed should be able to detect everyone on the road outside of a vehicle, including children, people with dark skin tones, and people using bikes and mobility devices.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the chief regulator of vehicle safety in the United States and its agenda also does not include special licenses for large consumer truck drivers.

There are occasional grumblings that vehicles that can be driven non-commercially without a commercial driver's license (CDL) require a CDL to drive commercially. But, for those most part, the folks concerned about this fact want to reduce the scope of vehicles for which a CDL is required, rather than require a special license for driver's of large consumer vehicles that don't require a CDL.

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    FWIW, there are a number of reasons why trucks are so big these days but a lot of it comes down to EPA regulations on fuel efficiency, strangely enough. Larger trucks aren't required to be as fuel efficient. Nov 15, 2023 at 14:12
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    Basically automakers negotiated themselves exceptions for large trucks, due to their presumed primarily commercial rather than consumer use, and then spent the next few decades marketing those exempt vehicles to consumers.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 15, 2023 at 16:05
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Driver's licensing in the USA is largely a state responsibility. That being said, there are special licenses states give out for drivers of very large trucks and commercial passenger vehicles: The commercial drivers license.

Here in Oklahoma, here are the 4 classes of driver's licensespdf:

Class A: Any combination of vehicles with a combined weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds provided the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle or vehicles being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.

Class B: Any single vehicle with a gross weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing not in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR, shall include a bus with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds and designed to transport sixteen or more persons, including the driver.

Class C: Any single vehicle with a GVWR of less than 26,001 pounds or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of GVWR or 10,000 pounds GVWR, which is:

  1. Required to be placed for hazardous material. ~OR~
  2. Designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.

Class D: All other vehicles regardless of weight, except A, B or C.

There are also several endorsements that may be required for types of vehicles deemed particularly hazardous, such as transporting multiple trailers, hazardous materials, or school busses. Also drivers may be restricted from certain types of vehicles or driving that their license might otherwise allow.

So yes, for certain (American adjusted) levels of "large" vehicles, we require special driver's licenses.

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  • The license classes are pretty much the same here in Texas. BTW, for non-Americans here, 26,000 pounds = 11,793 kg. So basically, the default "Class C" license lets you drive anything that's not a tractor-trailer or bus.
    – dan04
    Nov 15, 2023 at 17:03
  • @dan04 I think you meant to say "the default "Class D" license"
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 15, 2023 at 20:36
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    @ohwilleke: It's different between states. Here in Texas, there is no Class D, just A, B, C, and M (for motorcycles). OK's "Class D" is like TX's "Class C", and OK's "Class C" is like TX's "Class C CDL". But in both states, any vehicle weighing 26,000 lb or less, carrying 15 or fewer occupants, and not carrying hazardous cargo can be driven with the default license class (OK "D" or TX "C").
    – dan04
    Nov 15, 2023 at 20:44
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Americans love their trucks. In the U.S. it would be easier to organize against passenger cars than trucks.

Trucks have outsold cars in the United States for more than two decades.

trucks have outsold cars in the U.S. since 2002

U.S. car and truck retail sales from 2011 to 2021

In 2021, some 3.3 million automobiles sold in the US, compared to about 11.6 million light trucks, and some 451,400 heavy-duty trucks.

The real reason trucks have taken over U.S. roadways

Trucks dominate U.S. roadways, outnumbering cars among registered vehicles in all 50 states.

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    With American automakers largely ceasing sedan production, and with truck production and marketing largely driven by laxer CAFE standards, I'd say it's more like Stockholm syndrome than love for many. But to your credit, you've included an article that talks about that, so you've got my upvote. Thanks for answering. Nov 15, 2023 at 18:28

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