The feds have become believers in electronic roll-stability control (RSC) systems, and want tank-trailer operators to buy them, though it won't be right away, reports the American Trucking Associations.

ATA's director of engineering services, Ted Scott, told folks attending the Technology & Maintenance Council's annual meeting in Tampa, Fla., that federal authorities will soon notify the trucking industry that it plans to make RSC mandatory for tank trailers and tractors.

ATA expects the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue a Notice of Proposed Rule Making in April, Scott said. This will be the first step in a rule-making process which usually stretches out over a year or more. The National Transportation Safety Board has called for the RSC requirement after investigating a tanker crash.

Rollover wrecks by tankers can be especially messy because petroleum products and some chemicals can explode and burn so hot that they've destroyed bridges. Drivers, motorists and bystanders are sometimes killed or badly injured, and damage can run into the millions of dollars.

Rollovers usually happen on curves and circular freeway ramps that drivers enter too fast. RSC monitors a tractor-trailer's movements and senses when a rollover is about to occur, and cuts the tractor's throttle and applies the rig's brakes to try to prevent the accident.

NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration concluded that RSC works well after studying fleet experiences with it in recent years, Scott said. Many tanker fleets now spec it and find that the systems more than pay off their $1,500 to $2,500 per vehicle cost rather quickly, even if they have to infer the savings through reduction in the number of accidents they see.

ATA expects NHTSA to meanwhile issue a rulemaking for Class 7 and 8 tractors in March.