Makers of heavy-duty trucks in two years must add electronic stability-control systems to new vehicles, an effort by the U.S. government to prevent rollover crashes that kill about 300 drivers a year and injure 3,000 others.
The technology uses engine torque and computer-controlled braking to help truckers maintain control in emergencies by keeping the wheels on the ground and the trailers from swinging. The regulatory requirement, proposed in 2012, is estimated to cost $585 per truck, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement on Wednesday.
The final regulation mostly targets rollover crashes caused by driver error in steering large trucks, particularly on sharp curves and exit ramps. Though they accounted for 3.3 percent of all large-truck crashes, rollovers were responsible for more than half the deaths of drivers and occupants in 2012, the latest available data. Some buses also are affected by the rule.
“Reducing crashes through ESC in these trucks and buses will save lives,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said. “It will move goods and people more efficiently and reduce the toll crashes take on our economy through traffic delays and property damage.”
Installing ESC on new trucks will prevent as many as 1,759 crashes and 49 fatalities a year, NHTSA said.
The new rules have been recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board since 2011. They’ll apply to new trucks made after Aug. 1, 2017, that weigh more than 26,000 pounds (11,800 kilograms). An extra year is being given for passenger buses weighing more than 33,000 pounds.
The trucking industry was split over the mandate. The American Trucking Associations, representing most of the largest U.S. freight carriers, said the action would reduce one of the greatest threats to driver safety.
“Many fleets have already begun voluntarily utilizing this technology, and this new requirement will only speed that process,” said Dave Osiecki, the Arlington, Virginia-based group’s executive vice president.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents 150,000 small-business truckers, said NHTSA’s action was another sign the government is relying on equipment rather than experienced drivers to improve safety.
“Too many have become addicted to technology,” said Todd Spencer, the Grain Valley, Missouri-based group’s executive vice president. “If any of this really improves safety, that should be evident where the rubber meets the road. We simply don’t see it in the vast majority of instances.”
NHTSA estimates the industry will need to spend $45.6 million to comply with the regulations. The agency estimated the benefits — through fewer crashes, injuries and fatalities — to be far larger, from $312 million to $525 million.
Electronic stability control, marketed by companies such as Bendix, a unit of German parts maker Knorr-Bremse AG, will prevent about 56 percent of untripped rollover crashes, NHTSA estimates. Some companies were pushing the agency to permit a less-expensive technology known as roll stability control instead of ESC.
Regulators looked at the costs and benefits of requiring roll stability control, which has been sold by Meritor Wabco, a joint venture between Meritor Inc. and Wabco Holdings Inc. While the technology would cost, on average, $194 less per truck, the benefits through avoided crashes would be far lower because the systems don’t prevent nearly as many rollover crashes, NHTSA said.
Truck manufacturers will have to demonstrate compliance with the new rules through a road test known as a J-turn, which involves accelerating at a constant speed before maintaining a lane on a curve with a 150-foot radius.
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