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U.S. Truckmakers Ordered to Add Anti-Rollover Technology


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Bloomberg / June 3, 2015

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.

Trucks, Buses

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.

Technology Addiction

“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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NHTSA Issues Truck Electronic-Stability Rule

Heavy Duty Trucking / June 3, 2015

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued its long-awaited final rule to require electronic stability control (ESC) systems on Class 7-8 trucks and large buses.

The rule, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 136, will take effect for “most heavy trucks” in 2017, per NHTSA. The agency said that compliance will be achieved using a “J-turn” test that replicates a curved highway off-ramp.

“ESC is a remarkable safety success story, a technology innovation that is already saving lives in passenger cars and light trucks,” Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said upon introducing the new rule on June 3. “Requiring ESC on heavy trucks and large buses will bring that safety innovation to the largest vehicles on our highways, increasing safety for drivers and passengers of these vehicles and for all road users.”

According to NHTSA, the mandate was needed because “ESC works instantly and automatically to maintain directional control in situations where the driver's own steering and braking cannot be accomplished quickly enough to prevent the crash.”

The agency stated that implementing “ESC will prevent up to 56 percent of untripped, rollover crashes-- that is, rollover crashes not caused by striking an obstacle or leaving the road.” NHTSA estimates the rule will prevent as many as 1,759 crashes, 649 injuries and 49 fatalities annually.

“Reducing crashes through ESC in these trucks and buses will save lives-– nearly 50 each year,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “It will move goods and people more efficiently and reduce the toll crashes take on our economy through traffic delays and property damage. It’s a win for the safety and convenience of the traveling public and for our economy.”

The rulemaking effort dates back at least 2011, when the National Transportation Safety Board first issued a recommendation that ESC be required on heavy-duty vehicles. When the current highway bill (MAP-21) was enacted a year later, one of its provisions directed NHTSA to consider an ESC requirement for motor coaches, which are included in the final rule just issued. Also in 2012, a rule requiring light-duty vehicles to include ESC took effect.

The American Trucking Associations said it welcomed the mandate. “Ensuring the safety of America’s highways has always been ATA’s highest calling,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves, “and we’ve long known the positive role technology can play in making our vehicles and our roads safer. Today’s announcement by NHTSA will reduce crashes on our highways and make our industry safer.”

“Last month, NHTSA reported to Congress that truck rollover and passenger ejection were the greatest threats to truck driver safety,” said ATA Executive Vice President Dave Osiecki. “We can save lives by preventing rollovers with electronic stability control technology, and that’s a positive for our industry. Many fleets have already begun voluntarily utilizing this technology and this new requirement will only speed that process.”

Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC has advised that its supports NHTSA’s choice of ESC for its final rule requiring full-stability technology on heavy-duty vehicles. The manufacturer of ESC systems noted that the mandate will be implemented in three phases, starting August 1, 2017, for most three-axle tractors.

“At Bendix, we always prefer to let the market be the catalyst to drive safety technology adoption,” said Fred Andersky, director of government and industry affairs. “We believe ESC stands alone in terms of safety, performance, and value. And we have also seen a market acceptance of this technology – over RSC [roll stability control] – at a rate of three to one. This technology is another positive step on the part of our industry toward helping to further improve highway safety.”

According to Andersky, full-stability technology,which Bendix markets as its ESP Electronic Stability Program, “fully complies with the NHTSA rule.” He cautioned that it’s “critical for fleets currently equipping their vehicles either with ABS only or with roll-only stability systems to understand three key differences in order to better prepare for the arrival of full stability.”

He outlined those differences as follows:

  • “Full-stability systems use more sensors than either ABS or roll-only stability systems, creating a more comprehensive system capable of addressing both roll and directional stability. These additional sensors enable the unit to more quickly recognize factors that could lead to vehicle rollovers or loss-of-control. On dry surfaces, this means the system recognizes and mitigates conditions that could lead to rollover and loss-of-control situations sooner than roll-only options. Full-stability technology also functions in a wider range of driving and road conditions than roll-only systems, including snowy, ice-covered, and slippery surfaces. ABS systems are not designed to react to potential roll or loss-of-control situations.”
  • “Interventions can also differ. Full-stability systems rely on automatic brake interventions involving the steer, drive, and trailer axles, whereas roll-only systems typically apply the brakes only on the drive and trailer axles. Slowing the vehicle quickly helps mitigate rollovers faster, while slowing and redirecting can help the driver maneuver in loss-of-control situations.”
  • “Stability systems are the foundation for advanced active safety technologies. For example, as a collision mitigation system detects a possible collision with a forward vehicle and automatically applies the brakes in order to prevent or lessen its severity, the brake system should help the vehicle maintain its stability throughout the maneuver. This level of performance is best achieved with a full-stability system that is consistent with the new NHTSA rule.”

Andersky also pointed to the high degree of market acceptance already in place. “In our view, the market had already made its technology choice known prior to the formal introduction of NHTSA’s rule,” he said.

“Industry-wide, full stability is outselling roll-only technology three to one, up from three to two in previous years,” Andersky added. “The increasing adoption of ESC demonstrates the willingness by fleets to invest in the technology because of full stability’s ability to help reduce the number of heavy truck accidents, improve safety records, and deliver the return on investment that fleets need.”

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