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NHTSA Proposes Safety System Mandate for Large Trucks, Buses

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Hazmat 1 (truck rollover accident)

The photographer writes: "Taken during a tractor trailer rollover…"

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed a first-ever rule that would require electronic stability control (ESC) on large commercial trucks and buses and would save lives. The rule would go into effect in two to four years once it is finalized and would cost about $1,160 per truck.

As Truckinginfo reports in an article on Thursday, ESC could prevent as many as 56% of rollover accidents every year, plus 14% of crashes caused by loss of control, according to agency research. Jeff Plungis writes for Bloomberg Businessweek that agency researchers estimate ESC would prevent 2,329 crashes and save 49 to 60 lives a year. Rollover accidents in heavy-duty trucks and buses cause about 700 fatalities a year, Plungis writes.

He adds: “Having a rollover wreck increases a truck driver’s fatality risk by 30 times, according to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, which conducted research NHTSA is using to back its rulemaking.”

Electronic stability control works by using engine torque and computer-controlled braking of individual wheels to help the driver maintain control in emergency situations, keeping wheels on the ground and trailers from swinging, Plungis writes.

Bendix, the Ohio-based unit of German company Knorr-Bremse AG, has offered ESC since 2005, Plungis reports. Fred Andersky, Bendix’s director of government affairs, told Bloomberg Businessweek that truckmakers such as Volvo AB, and Peterbilt have made ESC standard in their vehicles.

“If there was going to be a mandate, electronic stability control is the right technology. It’s going to do what NHTSA needs it to do. It’s going to save more lives. It’s going to prevent more crashes,” Andersky said.

Plungis writes that Meritor WABCO also sells ESC but its fleet customers have preferred Roll Stability Control (RSC), which costs less. As he reports:

NHTSA said it opted for ESC over RSC because it will prevent more crashes, providing more economic benefit. Besides avoiding fatalities and injuries, companies will save from less property damage and lost travel time, NHTSA said.

Electronic stability control can reduce risks on slippery surfaces or while taking evasive action, limiting jack-knife crashes, Troy, Michigan-based Meritor WABCO said in a statement today.

Truckinginfo notes that NHTSA’s “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” is being published in the Federal Register and the public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposal for 90 days. The agency will also be holding a public hearing on it, whose date has not yet been announced. You can read the PDF version of the proposal here.

Image by frankpierson (Frank Pierson), used under its Creative Commons license.

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