NHTSA proposes ESC mandate for large vehicles

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This truck rollover accident may have been avoided with an electronic stability control system. Image: ACE Solid Waster/Flickr/CC BY

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed Wednesday that electronic stability control (ESC) systems should be mandated on all large commercial trucks, buses and motor coaches.

Save 60 lives a year

Already mandatory on passenger vehicles for 2012, the expanded mandate, according to the federal regulator, will eliminate more than half of the yearly rollover crashes in large-scale vehicles. According to the agency, about 2,329 crashes would be prevented a year, as well as up to 60 fatalities. In addition, another 14 percent of loss-of-control crashes would be eliminated. Those crashes occur when drivers over-compensate on unfamiliar or slippery roads.

Ray LaHood, the U.S. Transportation Secretary said:

“The Department and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have long recognized the potential impact of stability control technology in reducing deaths and serious injuries that result from rollover crashes. Today’s proposal is a major step forward to improving the safety of large commercial trucks, motor coaches and other large buses.”

What is ESC?

According to Jeremy Rosenberg of Cars.com:

“An electronic stability system measures the driver’s steering input against the car’s … rotation about the vertical axis and traction at the wheels. If differences exist, the brakes are applied automatically …¬† which steers the car in the intended direction. If needed, the engine throttle is lowered as well to cease power skids and allow the brakes to do their job.”

ESC systems go by various names from different automakers. Volvo calls it “Dynamic Stability and Traction Control.” Some GM models call it “StabiliTrak.” Toyota calls it “Vehicle Stability Control.”

ESC is available on many big rigs, buses and motor coaches. The proposed rule, posted in the Federal Register Wednesday, would require that they be standard equipment.

‘From A to B safely’

Some drivers complain that ESC takes the driving experience out of their hands, however. Adrian Lund, COO of The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said:

“There are some complaints from drivers who like to be more on the edge and feel their car lose it a little bit and then steer back into it themselves. And the electronic stability control does take that away. For most of us though, who are just trying to get from A to B safely, that’s a good thing.”

[Did someone say “I need to buy a car”?]

Studies prompted proposal

The NHTSA decided to make the proposal after conducting studies that showed that more than half of semi-tractor and large bus rollover accidents would be eliminated by the inclusion of ESC systems.

Public input welcome

For the next 90 days, the public will be free to make comments. After that time, a final ruling will be made. The mandate would come into effect in two to three years, depending on the type of vehicle.


Detroit Free Press

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