Granted, it’s not always easy in the trucking industry to find a mandate that’s considered a good mandate. Many feel regulations are doing a great deal to inhibit the ability of truckers to do their jobs effectively and timely. This, in turn, has led some drivers to reconsider their career choice and leave the industry – at a time when we really need drivers!
But, from my perspective, FMVSS 136 – “Electronic Stability Control for Heavy Vehicles” is different – it is what I consider a good mandate. Why? Because it will help reduce the incidence of both rollover and loss-of-control crashes for Class 7&8 tractors and motorcoaches in the future. If you don’t think rollovers and loss of controls are still a problem, keep this stat in mind – in 2014, according to the “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2014” over 15,000 heavy vehicles were involved in rollover and jackknife crashes. That’s an average of 41 heavy trucks and busses rolling over or jackknifing every day on our nations roadways. If you’ve ever seen one, you know how devastating and dangerous they can be for both the driver, passengers, other vehicles on the road, the environment and the infrastructure. Doing something to help reduce these crashes can only be a good thing. That’s why this mandate is a good mandate.
What is the mandate? Let’s cover the 3 key questions that concern everyone when it comes to regulations:
- When does it start?
- What does it cover?’
- How much is it going to cost?
Let’s answer the first two questions first. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has set up a 3 phase implementation schedule. Beginning August 1, 2017, all new class 7 & 8 air-braked tractors will be equipped with electronic stability control (ESC) – or what Bendix sells as Bendix ESP (Electronic Stability Program). You buy a new tractor manufactured after August first of next year and it will be equipped with electronic stability control. On June 24, 2018, all Class 8 (33,001 lbs. +) motorcoaches will be required to have ESC. And, finally, August 1, 2019, all remaining Class 7&8 air-braked tractors (such as 4x2 and 6x2 tractors), along with Class 7&8 air and hydraulically braked buses will be required to be equipped with full stability – ESC.
What’s not covered is also important to keep in mind. First, single unit trucks, or straight trucks, are not covered by the mandate. Cement mixers, dump trucks and other single unit chassis vehicles are not impacted by the mandate. Also, nothing in Classes 3-6 are required to have stability control. (This will likely change in the future – more on this later.) Finally, heavy duty severe service tractors – those with a gross axle rating of 29,000lbs. or more, as well as specialty, along with school buses, perimeter seating busses and transit buses are not covered by the mandate. Lastly, specialty slow moving tractors and buses – those that achieve a speed of 33mph in 2 miles.
Also, there is no retrofit requirement for ESC. Bendix doesn’t retrofit the technology today and the NHTSA was wise enough to not require this for trucks out on the road or purchased before August 1, 2017. ESC is for new vehicles only.
Cost of regulation is always a concern. After two environmental mandates that have led to reduced NOx and particulate emissions, but increased the average price a new truck by almost $20,000, you have every reason to be concerned. The bad news is that there will likely be a price increase on tractors. The good news is that it will likely be in the hundreds of dollars, not the thousands of dollars. When ABS was mandated in the late ‘90s, price of ABS technology dropped significantly. Plus, today there are OEMs (Volvo, Mack, Peterbilt) who already make full stability standard on their highway vehicles.
So that’s the new vehicle cost…what about maintenance? Good news here, as well! Stability control is an electronic system built on the vehicle’s ABS (Antilock Braking System). Additional sensors are added, along with a more powerful electronic control unit (ECU) to help deliver throttle reduction and braking when and where it is needed on the vehicle to help the driver mitigate a loss-of-control and/or rollover situation. The stability system operates independently, but the driver can always add additional throttle reduction, braking or steering to help avoid the situation. Because it is an electronic system, the sensors have a long life and if need to be changed, are replaced, not repaired.
The basic maintenance that is done to keep the vehicle’s braking system and tires in good shape, help ensure that the stability system is able to operate to its fullest when needed. However, it’s not totally maintenance free – if you do a front end alignment or other front-end work, you need to recalibrate the steer angle sensor. If you move the yaw rate/lateral acceleration sensor, such as for frame rail repairs, you need to replace the box back in the same place and position and recalibrate. With the Bendix ESP system, this is easily done using our ACOM diagnostic software. (A free download from Bendix.com)
Couple of other key points to keep in mind:
- The addition of the technology does not change your already safe driving practices. Electronic Stability Control still requires a driver to be alert and practice safe driving habits. Go into a 20mph turn at 60mph and the system will engage, but the laws of physics take over and you are going to rollover.
- The NHTSA went with full stability, not roll-only stability control (RSC). ESC technology helps drivers mitigate both rollovers and loss of control – it is the better technology. RSC only helps in rollover situations, typically on dry surfaces. Many rollovers start with a loss of control, especially on motorcoaches. That’s why ESC over RSC for the mandate.
Lastly, what’s next? Collision mitigation technology is high on NHTSA’s agenda, with expectation of a notice of proposed rulemaking likely next year. (Dependent, of course, on what happens with the November election!) A collision mitigation rulemaking will likely try to cover all classes from 3-8, meaning that stability control, an integral part of collision mitigation technology, will find its way onto these other vehicles. (NHTSA has already mandated stability control on class 1&2 vehicles.) In short, NHTSA will cover both bases with one mandate – getting stability on classes 3-6 while getting collision mitigation on all heavy vehicles. Not too worry, this regulation will likely not see implementation until the early 2020’s.
Will this be the end of rollovers, loss of control and jackknife crashes. No, regrettably not. But, it is a strong step in the right direction to do more to help drivers make it through the day safely.
Helping you make it home each night – that’s why this is a good mandate.
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