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ATA, OOIDA disagree over ESC mandate, to no surprise

ATA believes electronic stability control technology benefits safety while OOIDA says their benefits are over estimated. (The Trucker file photo)

The Trucker Staff

8/23/2012

WASHINGTON — To no one’s great surprise, the nation’s two largest trucking associations are on opposite sides of the table on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s proposed rulemaking requiring Electronic Stability Control (ESC) on large commercial vehicles.

The American Trucking Associations backs the rulemaking with one caveat and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes it on the grounds that the proposed rulemaking overstates the benefits and understates the cost, which could run anywhere from $1,160 to $2,300.

In formal comments filed with NHTSA, both associations restated positions revealed in July when NHTSA held a public hearing on the proposal.

The ATA said the proposed rulemaking, which has a 2016 implementation date, and which would require ESC and not Roll Stability Control (RSC) — which is less expensive but also doesn’t perform all the functions NHTSA believes are necessary — should be changed to allow different types of stability control.

In addition, the ATA has concerns with the planned “Sine with Dwell” (SWD) performance testing proposed in the rulemaking and does not support a retrofit requirement, according to Ted Scott, ATA director of engineering, who signed the comments.

The ATA simply says one size does not fit all.

“The American trucking industry is extremely diverse in its make-up and operations,” Scott wrote. “ATA is not convinced that the estimated ESC effectiveness advantage is large enough, significant enough or actually real enough to mandate only the ESC system for an industry as diverse as trucking. This concern is further validated through independent research.”

Scott was referring to a recent American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) study entitled, “Roll Stability Systems: Cost-Benefit Analysis of Roll Stability Control Versus Electronic Stability Control Using Empirical Crash Data.”

The analysis conflicts with NHTSA studies that support ESC systems over RSC system. The ATRI study finds that “for some fleets, RSC technology may be more effective, and cost-effective, at reducing rollover, jackknife and tow/struck crashes than ESC technology.”

As for the performance testing, ATA and other entities are concerned that the type of testing recommended does not place the technology under the same stresses that it would incur during actual over-the road use.

And, ATA said, with a four- to five-year new tractor turn-over cycle for the vast majority of Class 7 and 8 tractors, which would fall under the mandate, “in our opinion a retrofit requirement is unnecessary.”

The ATA said it believes requiring a roll stability system (RSS) for heavy vehicles is acceptable given the potential improvement in vehicle safety expected from such a mandate.

“This is corroborated in the ATRI research whereby RSS-installed trucks had a 65.6 percent lower crash rate than trucks with no SCS system. Requiring that RSS be of only one type is analogous to Henry Ford saying the customer may buy my model T in any color he’d like – as long as it is black,” the ATA comments said.

OOIDA said the proposed rulemaking failed to take into account other viable measures that could reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities.

“There is virtually no direct crash data showing that a costly ESC mandate is the most effective means to reduce crashes due to rollovers or loss-of-control,” OOIDA President Jim Johnston said in the association’s comments. “Moreover, the only study to look at direct empirical evidence found that the less-costly RSC systems are more effective than ESC systems in preventing crashes. Further, non-technological alternatives that have not been actively considered by NHTSA could be more effective than either type of stability control system. As stated by Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s Executive Vice President, ‘The best way to idiot-proof a truck is to make sure an idiot isn’t behind the wheel and is rather a well trained professional driver who knows what to do manually in the event of a roll-over. Relying solely on technology offers a false sense of security.”

 The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at editor@thetrucker.com.

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