In the next five years, it will be just a little bit safer to ride next to a semi-truck on U.S. highways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced a mandatory rule requiring electronic stability control on trucks and buses, greatly reducing the number of potential rollover crashes.
What Is Electronic Stability Control?
Electronic stability control (ESC) is a system that automatically corrects steering to maintain directional control. These systems have already been installed in passenger vehicles and trucks, and help prevent rollover accidents when a driver's own steering and braking are too slow to avoid an accident.
The plan for installing ESC in heavier vehicles will include:
- Motor coaches. In 2012, light-duty vehicles become the first commercial vehicles required to include ESC. Shortly afterward, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act asked NHTSA to consider a requirement for ESC in motor coaches, which have been included under the current regulation.
- Testing. The rule applies to all heavy trucks and large buses that weigh more than 26,000 pounds. All vehicles will be tested for compliance on a J-turn that simulates the forces of a curved highway off-ramp. The rule will take effect for most trucks within two years, although buses heavier than 33,000 pounds have three years to comply, and vehicles between 26,000 and 33,000 pounds have four years to comply.
- Fewer crashes. According to NHTSA, mandatory stability will prevent up to 1,759 crashes, 649 injuries, and 49 fatalities due to bus and heavy vehicle crashes each year. The agency also predicts that ESC will cut the number of rollover crashes not caused by obstacles, in half.
- Economic benefits. In addition to saving lives, NHTSA officials have said that the reduction in accidents will allow traffic to flow more freely, saving time and money for commuters and government agencies. It could also boost the transportation economy through better mileage and decreased property damage costs.
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