NHTSA angling to make stability control systems mandatory on big rigs?

Automakers are legally required to install stability control to all new cars and trucks for sale to the public, but as of yet, there is no such law for commercial tractor trailer trucks. That may soon change, however, as the Associated Press is reporting that The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is studying whether to mandate the safety system for all big rigs. Stability control systems utilize an array of sensors to detect imbalance and possible rollover. If a risk is detected, the system applies the brakes to an individual wheel (or wheels) until balance is restored. NHTSA crash avoidance director Nathaniel Beuse claims that mandating standard stability control systems on all semi trucks could prevent 3,500 rollover accidents, 4,400 injuries and 106 deaths each year.

Those are awfully powerful numbers that appear to justify the estimated $1,200 cost to retrofit existing trucks and the $1,000 it is said to take to install such hardware on a new rig, but it would also appear to make more sense with some trucks than others. Tanker trucks, which the AP says account for six percent of all big rigs on the road, account for 31 percent of all rollover accidents. And since tanker trucks often carry hazardous, potentially explosive materials like propane or gasoline, adding stability control systems could greatly mitigate the loss of life and property. One trucking company that has already installed the systems in its trucks, Trimac Transportation Systems, tells the AP that rollover accidents dropped from an average of 11 per year to only one last year. While that's just one company's results, it does suggest that even with the heightened cost incurred to purchase stability control systems, that the money can be recouped in lower insurance claims and perhaps even lower premiums.

NHTSA is conducting a two-day hearing to study whether or not enough is being done to prevent tanker trucks from running over. If in fact NHTSA determines that more needs to be done to prevent these potential rollovers, we're thinking that legally compulsory stability control, at least for tankers, could be right around the corner.

[Source: Associated Press | Image: David McNew/Getty]

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