NHTSA: New technology can prevent truck rollovers

Big trucks are a crucial part of commercial, industrial and consumer transportation in the United States. While these trucks account for less than four percent of registered vehicles on the road, they are linked to a high percentage of traffic accidents. The most notable truck accidents are rollovers, which result in serious property damage and account for over 55 percent of trucker fatalities. With millions of large trucks traveling cross country each year, preventing rollover-related accidents and injuries has become a national priority.

For decades, the mission of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been to make American roadways safer. For some time, NHTSA has monitored and studied the effectiveness of electronic stability control (ESC) systems in reducing crashes. Their findings show that single vehicle and SUV crashes were reduced by 34 percent and 59 percent, respectively. As a result of ESC systems' efficacy, they are now mandated in new cars in the 2012 model year. With the severity of catastrophic injuries and deaths after rollover collisions and increasing reports about the success of electronic stability control technology in reducing risks for accidents, NHTSA wants to study the effectiveness of these stability systems in large commercial vehicles. The trucking industry is being encouraged to consider the technology for its highway hulks - tractor trailers and tank trucks.

ESC systems use onboard computers and sensors that can compare the conditions of the road, proximity of other vehicles, wheel slip and vehicle handling. If the sensors indicate that a loss of control is imminent, safety features, such as speed reduction and braking, activate. For heavy trucks, the systems will be able to determine weight shifts in loads that make a truck more susceptible to rollover. The cost of installing or retrofitting these safety systems in could range from $1,000 to $1,200. The benefits, including lives saved, property damage prevention, insurance premium payment reduction and catastrophic injuries averted, are priceless.

Today, automakers are required by law to install ESC systems in all new cars and trucks that will travel American roads. The same is not required of commercial tracker trailers makers, but some trucking companies are already undertaking measures to install ESC systems in their big trucks. This action will help prevent tractor-trailer rollover accidents in the future.