NHTSA's truck safety focus will include electronic braking systems

| 7/30/2002

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) future safety-related rulemaking priorities for heavy-trucks include driver fatigue, tire failure and the ability of electronic-controlled braking systems (EBS) to improve braking capability.

"Truck brake performance has been identified as a major factor contributing to crashes involving large trucks...The major issue... is identifying what performance requirements should be established" to shorten braking distances, the agency said.

As part of this effort, NHTSA is testing EBS-equipped vehicles. "One promising method to shorten truck stopping distances may be through disc air brakes with electronic control. Stopping distances could be reduced by as much as 30 percent through the use of disc brakes and more powerful front axle brakes, in conjunction with ECBS," NHTSA said.

Another concern is heat buildup in tires that may result from under-inflation, overloading, high-speed operation, sub-par tire design, or a combination of these factors.

"Computer chip technology now exists that can monitor tire inflation and warn the driver of impending tire failure. Some of the advances in reducing tire failures on heavy trucks have begun and will continue to appear in passenger car tires," the agency said.

NHTSA also wants to develop a sensor for a warning system to alert drivers before they fall asleep. The purpose is to reduce the more than 100,000 injuries and deaths associated with drowsiness involving both commercial and passenger vehicles.

NHTSA data suggests that approximately 100,000 crashes per year, including 1,357 fatal crashes and approximately 71,000 injury crashes, involved drowsiness.

"Drivers are often unaware of their deteriorating condition or, even when they are aware, are often motivated to keep driving. A drowsiness detection and warning system can help reduce alertness-related crashes by helping to maintain alertness until it is safe to stop and rest," the agency said.
By Dick Larsen, senior editor