Safety & Compliance

Hearing on Stability Control Could Pave the Way For Future Mandate

August 04, 2010

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A mandate for stability control systems on tractor-trailers could be near, according to a hearing of the National Transportation Safety Board this week.
A study found that stability control systems could prevent truck crashes and result in fewer deaths and injuries. (Photo by Meritor Wabco)
A study found that stability control systems could prevent truck crashes and result in fewer deaths and injuries. (Photo by Meritor Wabco)
Nathaniel Beuse, director of crash avoidance standards for National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said if the technology were installed on all vehicles, there would be 3,500 less crashes, preventing 106 fatalities and 4,384 injuries, according to reports by the Associated Press. Having all trucks outfitted with stability control would save $1.456 billion annually, according to the data.

Beuse's comments were based on a study conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute under a cooperative agreement between NHTSA and Meritor Wabco.

The NTSB hearing was called to discuss the rollover and fire of a cargo tank vehicle that occurred on Interstate 69 in Indianapolis last year. The rollover accident occurred on Oct. 22, 2009, when a 2006 International truck tractor with a 11,600-gallon cargo tank semi-trailer carrying liquefied petroleum gas struck a guardrail on I-69. The cargo tank rolled over the guardrail and slid on its right side into the bridge abutment and pillar of an intersecting overpass. The tractor separated from the vehicle and rolled onto its right side and caught fire. The cargo tank sustained a breach, resulting in the release of liquefied petroleum gas, which vaporized and ignited. The ensuing fire involved eight other vehicles and resulted in injuries to the driver of the cargo tank as well as occupants of four other vehicles.

"The purpose of this hearing is to examine the factors that can lead to tank truck rollovers and determine what actions we can take to mitigate these factors," said NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman in her opening statement.

Rollovers are more common among tankers because of their high center of gravity, according to Hersman. These trucks made up 6 percent of large trucks, but are involved in 31 percent of all fatal truck rollover crashes, the AP says.

More and more fleets are adopting stability control systems, including electronic stability control (ESC) and roll stability control (RSC) systems. ESC provides full stability control, working to prevent both rollovers and loss of control incidents. RSC is built to primarily address rollovers, but not loss of control.

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