Industry supports NHTSA proposal calling for ECS on Class 8 trucks
May 17, 2012 3:35 PM
National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) was among the groups voicing support for the newly announced National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposal that would require electronic vehicle stability control systems on new Class 8 tractors. The association and its members have been calling for just such a mandate for the past four years.
“The NTTC Executive Committee passed a resolution in 2008 to petition NHTSA to require stability systems on all new tractors used to pull tank trailers,” says John Conley, NTTC president. “We believe electronic stability control (ESC) and roll stability control systems (RSC) systems can be tools in reducing rollovers. NHTSA asked us not to file the petition as they were developing a rule for all tractors. We are pleased to see that rule published.”
NHTSA published the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the May 16 issue of the Federal Register. The rule would require ECS on large commercial trucks, motorcoaches, and other large buses for the first time ever. Agency research shows the technology could prevent up to 56% of rollover crashes each year—the deadliest among all crash types—and another 14% of loss-of-control crashes.
An extensive NHTSA research program to determine how available stability control technologies affect crashes involving commercial vehicles found ESC systems to be the most effective tool for reducing the propensity for heavy vehicles to rollover or lose control. With sensors that monitor vehicle movement and steering, ESC can help mitigate rollover incidents by using automatic computer-controlled braking, and also aid the driver in addressing severe understeer or oversteer conditions that can lead to loss of control. NHTSA estimates that a standard requiring ESC on the nation's large trucks and large buses would prevent up to 2,329 crashes, eliminate an estimated 649 to 858 injuries, and prevent between 49 and 60 fatalities a year.
"We've already seen how effective stability control can be at reducing rollovers in passenger vehicles—the ability for this type of technology to save lives is one reason it is required on cars and light-duty trucks beginning with model year 2012," says NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "Now, we're expanding our efforts to require stability enhancing technology on the many large trucks, motorcoaches, and other large buses on our roadways."
NHTSA says the ESC-equipped truck and bus population is growing steadily, and the agency predicts that about 26% of Class 8 tractors and 80% of new buses will be ordered with ESC in 2012. Much of the tank truck industry has voluntarily moved to ESC on tractors and RSC on new tank trailers, according to Conley. In fact, RSC has become standard on new tank trailers.
While praising the proposed mandate, Conley says it is important to understand what the technology can and cannot do. “We have been pleased to have demonstrations from the various component suppliers at our safety and maintenance meetings, and a ride-along can make you a believer,” he says. “However, we must remember that the trained tank truck driver is the primary defense against rollovers. There are no silver bullets, but ESC certainly should help to reduce the chance of a rollover in some situations.”
The agency's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is being published in the Federal Register and members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposal for 90 days. NHTSA will also hold a public hearing on the proposed safety standard to solicit further public comment — the date and location of that hearing will be published in the coming weeks. As proposed, the rule would take effect between two and four years after the standard is finalized, depending on the type of vehicle.
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