Positive reaction to stability-control proposal (NHTSA)

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Announcment: Back in 2010, Con-way Freight ordered 1,300 Freightliner tractors equipped with Meritor Wabco’s Roll Stability Control system. That order followed Con-way’s participating in a test program in 2009 in partnership with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). The testing was part of the Dept. of Transportation-funded Integrated Vehicle-Based Safety System (IVBSS) program. As part of its participation, Con-way Freight purchased ten Class 8 tractors equipped with the IVBSS suite of technologies, including roll stability systems.

We know, and research shows, smart technologies like these have the potential to prevent accidents,” Bob Petrancosta, vice president of safety, told Fleet Owner at the time.

With yesterday’s announcement by DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of a proposed rule to mandate electronic stability control (ESC) systems on large commercial trucks, motorcoaches, and other large buses as standard equipment, the time when fleets such as Con-way purchase such systems as optional equipment is nearly over.

“Our main reason is really to protect our drivers,” Petrancosta said back in 2010. “We’ve made the commitment to include these technologies on all new vehicles we purchase.”

Typically, ESC technology senses driving conditions or vehicle performance tendencies that are consistent with a vehicle about to roll over, such as during hard cornering or change of direction. When the system believes a rollover is imminent, an alert is sent to the driver, and if no action is taken, it will decrease engine torque and/or apply braking to help get the vehicle under control.

NHTSA believes up to 56% of rollover crashes and 14% of loss-of-control crashes per year could be prevented with the technology.

“The Department and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have long recognized the potential impact of stability control technology in reducing deaths and serious injuries that result from rollover crashes,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “[This] proposal is a major step forward to improving the safety of large commercial trucks, motorcoaches, and other large buses.”
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,” said 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.”
Meritor Wabco produces the SmarTrac Electronic Stability Control system, a technology it said is perfectly suited to meet the potential mandate. SmarTrac incorporates roll stability control as well as yaw or rotational control.

“At Meritor Wabco, we take extreme pride in putting safety first and have long been at the forefront of ESC technology in North America,” said Jon Morrison, president & general manager, Meritor Wabco. “We continue to develop leading technology that will help our customers save lives, save property, and make our highways safer. We agree with NHTSA’s recognition of the benefits of ESC technology.”

Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems also came out strongly in favor of the mandate. Bendix’s ESP technology is the foundation for its advanced safety technologies such as the Bendix Wingman Advanced.

“The government’s notice makes a clear statement, underscoring the advantages of full-stability technology, as opposed to roll-only technology,” said Fred Andersky, Bendix director of government and industry affairs. “While our preference is always to let the overall market drive choice, we support NHTSA’s selection of full-stability technology to mandate. We believe full-stability technology on tractor-trailers, highway motorcoaches and other large buses is critical to the safety of today’s highways. Bendix produces both roll-only and full-stability systems, but in our view, full stability is the superior technology, and the cost it adds is minimal. Just as important, full-stability technology is the foundation for the Bendix active safety and driver assistance systems available now, as well as advanced concepts in development.”

According to Andersky, full-stability technology addresses both roll and directional stability. It recognizes and mitigates conditions that could lead to rollover and loss-of-control situations sooner on dry surfaces, and in a wider range of driving and road conditions, including snowy, ice-covered, and slippery surfaces. Full-stability systems contain additional sensors, enabling the unit to recognize factors that could lead to truck rollovers and loss of control.

Combined, Meritor Wabco and Bendix have sold over 325,000 of their systems, both introduced in 2005, in North America.

Kenworth announced at this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show that it would offer the Bendix Wingman Advanced as an option on its Class 8 tractors.

Since 2005, Volvo Trucks has offered Volvo Enhanced Stability Technology as standard equipment on all VN series highway tractors and as an available option on VHD vocational trucks. The full electronic stability program assists the driver in maintaining control during emergency maneuvers and braking events, dramatically reducing the likelihood of a rollover, jackknife or loss of control.

“We need to examine the proposal more closely, but do believe electronic stability systems provide safety benefits,” Brandon Borgna, manager-media relations for Volvo Trucks, told Fleet Owner. “Since 2005, Volvo has offered its full electronic stability program – Volvo Enhanced Stability Technology – as a standard feature on all VN model highway trucks. More than half the full stability systems on the market today are equipped on Volvo trucks.”

Most major truck manufacturers now offer some type of system, either their own or a third-party system, as optional equipment.

The proposed rule must be published in the Federal Register and the public will then have 90 days to offer comments on the proposal. NHTSA said it will also hold a public hearing at a time and place to be announced. The rule would go into effect between 2 and 4 years after the standard is finalized, the agency said.