Final rule nears on electronic stability control for heavy trucks

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 5/26/2015

A final rule that would require new heavy-duty trucks to be equipped with electronic stability control systems has cleared the White House Office of Management and Budget and could be officially published soon. OOIDA opposes a government mandate, saying that technology is no substitute for a skilled, experienced driver behind the wheel.

The final rule on electronic stability control, ESC, cleared the budget office on Thursday, May 21, inching the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closer to publication. The 2012 transportation bill known as MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, required NHTSA, which has jurisdiction over new vehicle standards, to issue a rule on electronic stability control.

OOIDA has offered up alternatives to a government mandate since the rule was in the proposal phase. Eliminating the underlying driver errors that NHTSA uses to justify an ESC mandate lies with training drivers, the Association has said. Better signage and highway markings and better enforcement of a “plethora” of existing laws against unacceptable and negligent driving practices would also help.

Most of all, OOIDA says that stability control already exists in the marketplace and, therefore, the carriers that already use it should have less crashes.

“If it’s already available and already being used, there shouldn’t be any need for much speculation. If, in fact, it does lead to fewer crashes, it should speak for itself – that there are fewer crashes among the companies using the technology,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer told Land Line Magazine.

“And if the agency does not pursue a comparison of carriers already using the technology to those not using the technology in terms of crashes, then we would be very skeptical of any claims made by the agency,” he added.

Makers of stability control system, companies like Bendix and Meritor-Wabco, say that their technology is not meant to replace skilled driving, but is meant to enhance it.

Spencer says that while that may be true, a federal agency should possess real-world data before publishing a final rule.

“Technology can certainly do fantastic things, but we don’t think it can replace a skilled, experienced driver. Could it enhance a skilled, experienced driver? We hope so,” Spencer said, “but more than that, before there is any kind of a mandate, the agency should clearly look at how the technology plays out in the field.

“Any claims made by a federal agency ought to be measureable in the real world, and that means that the users of this technology crash less. That should always be the bottom line, and that’s not theoretical. That’s actual.”

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