Stability Control Mandate

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has begun the process to roll out a proposal that would require stability control systems on manufacturers of heavy trucks. The only officially released information is that the Office of Managment and Budget received a notice of the proposal on December 13, 2011.

The proposal that this be extended to heavy trucks comes with some concerning factors, the biggest of which is vehicle cost. Since emission mandates went into effect almost a decade ago, the prices of heavy trucks have increased drastically. If the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has its way, the new systems that will be required in all trucks will keep those costs rising. Increasing the price of new heavy trucks with have an adverse effect on trucking companies and their ability to provide truck driving jobs. If a new heavy truck costs trucking companies more money there will be fewer trucks. Fewer trucks means fewer truck driving jobs. Overall, if passed, this proposal could have a devastating effect on the entire trucking industry.

The NHTSA is issuing this proposal in an attempt at an across the board mandate of stability control systems in all vehicles. Previously they required that vehicles of under ten thousand pounds have electronic stability controls. These previous regulations have only just come into effect but the cost to consumers is already evident. The prices on economy cars has increased at a rate far above that of the national inflation average for the last ten years and with continued regulation the prices are predicted to do nothing but continue this trend.

The key to this proposal is that the NHTSA is hoping to reduce the number of accidents through the use of automated systems. The failure in this logic is that automated systems are only effective in certain situations and anyone that has been in the trucking industry for long can attest that proper training is far more important. The NHTSA is attempting to take the human element out of accidents. A vast majority of research done on safety in the trucking industry points to early and repeated training being the most important and effective factor in preventing highway accidents. Most trucking companies have already begun implementing better training programs and continued education programs for experienced truckers that might need refreshers on safety procedures.

Owner operators should be especially concerned by this impending mandate. With the cost of diesel fuel sending many owner operators to national companies, rulings like this one could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back. It is obvious that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is trying to do what is best for all concerned but sometimes the simplest solution is the best solution. Highway safety is a grave concern to everyone. Those that are in the best position to help the NHTSA find solutions are those that are currently driving over the road and it is with those professionals that the NHTSA should be consulting before making future safety recommendation.

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