Front crash prevention may be required for large trucks

February 26, 2016

Large trucks could get a major safety upgrade if the U.S. mandates front crash prevention systems on big rigs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in October 2015 granted a petition for rulemaking calling for forward collision warning and automatic braking capability on trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more. The petition was filed in February 2015 by the Truck Safety Coalition, the Center for Auto Safety, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and Road Safe America.

The agency "agrees with the petitioners that [these] systems have the potential to save lives by preventing or reducing the severity of rear-end crashes."

Front crash prevention systems use cameras, radar, or other sensors to monitor a truck's path and alert the driver of a potential collision with a vehicle or object. Some systems require drivers to react to warnings, while others may automatically brake or steer a truck to reduce crash severity or avoid a crash altogether.

IIHS estimates that forward collision warning/mitigation could address up to 37 percent of large truck front-to-rear crashes if all large trucks had the technology.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute have estimated that collision mitigation braking could reduce fatalities in rear-end crashes by 44 percent and injuries by 47 percent if all tractor-semitrailers were equipped with the technology.

Studies of real-world system effectiveness for large trucks in the U.S. aren't yet available because most trucks sold here don't have front crash prevention. The technology is significantly reducing rear-end crashes in passenger vehicles (see "Front crash prevention slashes police-reported rear-end crashes," Jan. 28, 2016).

The American Trucking Associations supports the measure. "ATA strongly believes that preventing rear-end crashes is a far better strategic goal than mitigating them and strongly recommends that all vehicles (light and heavy) be equipped with forward collision warning and mitigation braking technology," the group said in comments to NHTSA on a proposal to strengthen truck underride guards.

The European Union requires forward collision warning and automatic braking on most new heavy vehicles.  

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