SPECIAL REPORT: Finally, NHTSA seeks shorter braking distances

| 12/15/2005

The long-awaited proposal to reduce the stopping distances of trucks by 20 to 30 percent finally showed up in the Federal Register.

Industry insiders have looked for the proposal since 2004.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration issued the rulemaking Dec. 15 and has given interested parties until April 14, 2006, to submit comments on the proposal.

"The agency is proposing to reduce the stopping distance requirements for the loaded and unloaded service brake distances and emergency brake distances for truck tractors by 20 to 30 percent," the proposed rulemaking states.

The proposed rulemaking states that developments in air disc brakes, enhanced larger capacity drum brakes, electronic-controlled brake systems (ECBS) and advanced antilock braking systems have contributed to the agency's decision to propose more stringent stopping distance requirements for truck tractors.

NHTSA included information on the agency's research on current braking technology's ability to meet the proposed 20 to 30 percent reduction in stopping distances.

With disc brakes at all wheel positions, both test vehicles at gross vehicle weight rating conditions traveling at 60 mph were able to exceed a 30 percent stopping distance reduction - stopping in at least 249 feet - from the current requirements of 355 feet for the GVWR standard.

Both test vehicles used in the NHTSA study were able to exceed the 20 percent reduction - 284 feet - using a hybrid braking system, the proposed rulemaking states.

Lightly loaded vehicles equipped with a variety of braking systems met or exceeded the 30 percent reduction in stopping distances in most cases, according to the proposal.

Substantial improvement in braking performance appears feasible with existing technology, NHTSA states in the proposed rulemaking.

With that statement in mind, NHTSA is only proposing two years lead time for OEMs to comply with the regulations at the conclusion of a final rulemaking - if there is one.

The agency has solicited comments on the proposal with an April 16, 2006, deadline.

All comments should indicate NHTSA-2005-21462. To submit your comments - and the comments can be submitted anonymously - you can:

  • Visit http://dmses.dot.gov/submit/dspSubmission.cfm fill out the necessary information, indicate docket No. 21462 and follow instructions for submitting comments online;
  • Fax them to: (202) 493-2251; or
  • Mail to: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 400 Seventh St. SW, Nassif Building Room PL-401, Washington, DC 20590-0001

- By Jami Jones, senior editor