Final rule on stability control furthers costly ‘addiction to technology’

By David Tanner, senior editor

The trucking industry will conservatively pay $3.7 billion over a 10-year period to comply with a new federal rule that requires heavy trucks to be equipped with electronic stability control systems, or ESC.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s final rule, set to be published in the Federal Register at press time, would take effect in 60 days and target newly manufactured trucks rolling off the assembly line in two years.

ESC works by maintaining directional control of a vehicle in situations where braking and steering by the driver cannot be accomplished quickly enough to prevent a crash.

NHTSA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, claims its rule will prevent as many as 1,759 crashes, 649 injuries and 49 fatalities each year and prevent up to 56 percent of rollover crashes that aren’t caused by striking an obstacle or leaving the roadway.

OOIDA has taken issue with the agency’s claims about safety and cost-benefit to the industry, in part because the phasing-in of an ESC mandate will take about 10 years and will cost much more than NHTSA estimates. Another contention is that an ESC mandate could make some drivers complacent as they rely on technology instead of safe and responsible driving.

“Too many have become addicted to technology – or more precisely the promise, allure, or maybe even the fascination of technology,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said.

“While we are by no means opposed to technology, what we have become accustomed to seeing from government mandates is supposed justification that mirrors marketing claims,” Spencer said. “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.”

National crash databases do not currently possess a sufficient number of cases to evaluate the safety performance of stability control systems, the OOIDA Foundation points out in citing a University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study – the same study that NHTSA used to justify its rulemaking.

The rulemaking came about when the current highway bill became law in 2012. LL