Depending on how you look at it, Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), which has been in the market and used for over a decade, is a lightning rod of reactions from drivers – they either love it or hate it as they travel across the nation’s roadways. As a driver, I understand how it can evoke such polar opposite feelings. But, as a demo professional at Bendix, I also know what’s behind the technology and how it can help drivers mitigate crashes and that it helps fleets reduce their rear-end collision crash costs as well.
And, I’m not the only one. Many drivers have told me at various events that when it was needed, the technology helped save their bacon – as well as the bacon of those folks in the forward vehicle.
Of course, AEB is not perfect. It doesn’t replace driver responsibility, but it’s a proven technology that keeps improving. Thus, it’s not surprising that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) see it as a need to have, not just a nice to have system that can help potentially reduce crashes, injuries, and deaths.
But not just on Class 7-8 trucks, as Congress suggested when they made it law that NHTSA would mandate this technology. Congress, by virtue of the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act), required NHTSA to deliver a rulemaking that would add AEB to the trucks covered by the ESC mandate (FMVSS 136) – basically Class 7 & 8 air-braked highway tractors and motor coaches. And, while a small segment of Class 7 highway coaches are hydraulically-braked, this regulation predominately covered those vehicles that delivered braking via air instead of liquid. Congress also wanted the agency to study feasibility on other types of vehicles.
Give a regulator an inch, and they’ll sometimes take the mile! Now, in all fairness to the agencies, FMVSS 136 (the stability mandate) left a few of what are called call “donut holes” throughout the mandate. Here’s an example of what I mean. In vehicle Classes 1-8, stability contol is mandated on Class 1 and 2 and, with FMVSS 136, Classes 7 and 8. (Alright, not all Class 7 and 8 since single unit trucks, school buses, transit buses and a few other select vehicles were not required to have stability control.) This meant that Classes 3-6 were not required to have stability control. That’s a donut hole.
Since stability control is a key foundation for collision mitigation technology, in order to maximize the benefit of an AEB mandate, the agencies made it a point that almost all types of vehicles (Class 3-8) are required to have AEB technology in the future. And, in order to get AEB, vehicles that were not part of FMVSS 136’s ESC mandate will now be required to have stability control.
Along with tractors and motorcoaches, medium-duty and heavy-duty single unit trucks, school buses, transit buses and other types of vehicles in the Class 3-8 realm will, in the future -- let’s call it by the end of the decade -- be equipped with both stability control and collision mitigation technology.
The donut hole has been, or will be, closed!
Before you decide to sell the trucking business or retire as a driver, keep in mind, this is just the NPRM – Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Bascially, NHTSA and FMCSA are telling us what they propose for the mandateMotoring citizens and companies still have the opportunity to comment, make suggestions, or just vent about the rulemaking. NHTSA and FMCSA will take these comments into consideration and deliver a final rule – probably sometime in 2024. Then, there will be a timeframe for implementation – likely 3-5 years after the final rule is published.
Trust me…having read the rulemaking, NHTSA and FMCSA have left a few donut holes in terms of their approach. It’s collectively our turn to fill in some of the gaps in the rulemaking, and, Bendix, along with a host of other companies, industry groups and individuals will do just that.
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