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US Publishes Electronic Stability Control Mandate

(May 17, 2012) – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published its long-awaited proposal requiring, for the first time, electronic stability control (ESC) systems on large commercial trucks.

The rule would require full-stability systems on tractors with a gross vehicle weight rating of greater than 26,000 lbs (11,793 kgs).

ESC uses sensors that monitor vehicle movement and steering and help mitigate rollover incidents by using automatic computer-controlled braking. The agency says the systems can also aid drivers in correcting severe understeer or oversteer — conditions that can lead to loss of control.

NHTSA says that a ESC requirement would prevent up to 2,329 crashes, eliminate an estimated 649 to 858 injuries and between 49 and 60 fatalities a year.

While many new tractors can be ordered with this technology – and many fleets voluntarily equip ESC — the proposed rule would require the systems as standard equipment.

In its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the agency said the rule would take effect between two and four years after the standard is finalized. The public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposal for 90 days.

“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.”

The news was welcomed by the Canadian Trucking Alliance, which for years has been calling for a similar requirement for stability control systems such as ESC to be non-optional standard equipment on new heavy trucks.

“The technology works and for the growing proportion of carriers that are spec’ing new tractors with ESC, it’s cheap insurance,” says CTA president David Bradley.