Pending government action on trucking eyed by ATA

Among the possible new government regulations the American Trucking Associations (ATA) is closely monitoring are: stability control systems, speed limiters, Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs) and Connected Vehicles. That was the word from Ted Scott, the organization’s director of engineering services, in his annual report to the annual Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) Fall Meeting and National Technician Skills Competition (TMCSuperTech).

The event took place last week in Pittsburgh.

ATA is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry.

North America's premier technical society for truck equipment technology and maintenance professionals, TMC works to improve transport equipment, its maintenance and maintenance management.

Stability control systems

Two types of stability control systems exist in today's market: stability control for tractor roll (RSC) and electronic stability control (ESC) for roll and yaw (loss of directional control) of tractors. These systems actively reduce the tractors throttle and apply its brakes to decelerate the vehicle if a high rollover risk or instability threshold is detected.

For several years, the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have been examining the performance of RSC and ESC for roll and yaw (loss of directional control) of tractors, reported Scott. Studies done by both agencies have concluded that ESC and RSC would reduce rollover and loss-of-control crashes.

NHTSA had issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NRPM) establishing a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 136, to require ESC systems on new truck tractors and certain buses with a gross vehicle weight rating of greater than 26,000 lbs.

There have been delays in developing the final rule, he said. ATA expects a final rule to be issued in March 2014.

Speed limiters

Scott said it is ATA's understanding that NHTSA will issue a NRPM on a mandate for speed limiters (governors) in Class 7 and 8 trucks this December 2013.

From conversation with NHTSA representatives, there are a couple of concerns that NHSTA believes must be addressed, he noted. One is the matter of state's rights, as the establishment of a federal maximum speed limit setting for tractors "may be considered the usurping of authority generally considered the purview of the state and an infringement of that purview by the federal government may not acceptable too many state governments.

"If the federal truck speed limit is lower than the state limit, it is likely that the enforcement community under the direction of the State Attorney General will be told to only enforce the 'posted' speed limit," he added.

Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board www.ntsb.gov (NTSB) made recommendations to NHTSA, H-12-20, to "develop performance standards for advanced speed-limiting technology, such as variable speed limiters and intelligent speed adaptation devices, for heavy vehicles, including trucks, buses, and motor coaches," Scott said. After establishing performance standards for advanced speed-limiting technology for heavy commercial vehicles, NTSB favors that all newly manufactured heavy vehicles be equipped with such devices.

NHTSA has brought up an alternative option called a "soft top with time limits." This means that the cap could be exceeded but only for a limited amount of time in a specified period.

The soft top option removes some of the "State Rights" concerns, he said. It would also remove some of the safety concerns brought about by rural "turtle races" and long convoys of trucks on the highway.

DVIRs

The FMCSA will begin a rulemaking that could rescind the requirement for motor carriers to retain DVIRs when the driver has not found any vehicle defects or deficiencies.

The rulemaking would remove a significant information collection burden without adversely impacting safety, said Scott. "The value of the time saved by eliminating the paperwork burden associated with the filing of no-defect DVIRs is more than $1 billion per year."

Connected Vehicles

Scott said that within the next two years, it is expected that NHTSA will make a rulemaking Decision regarding vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communications on light and heavy vehicles.

Connected Vehicles, also called Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle to Infrastructure (V21), is the wireless exchange of data among vehicles and infrastructure traveling in the same vicinity.

The exchange of data offers opportunities for crash and congestion reductions, he pointed out.

The vision for V2V is that each vehicle on the roadway (automobiles, buses, trucks and motorcycles) will be able to communicate with other vehicles, and that the data and communications will support a new generation of active safety applications and systems.

Truck cab crashworthiness

As part of the new Highway Bill, NHTSA is required to conduct research on truck cab crashworthiness.

NHTSA has contracted with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute UMTRI www.umtri.umich.edu to conduct this research, Scott said. UMTRI is establishing an advisory group to advise it on its research effort and ATA will be part of that advisory group.

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