NHTSA: Anti-Rollover Technology Could Save 100 Lives Per Year

NTSB Eyes Anti-Rollover Technology for Trucks
William B. Cassidy | Aug 5, 2010 3:37PM GMT

Mandating the use of stability control systems on heavy trucks could help avoid almost 3,500 rollover accidents and save more than 100 lives a year, industry and federal officials told the National Transportation Safety Board.

Technology that exists today could be retrofitted to trucks for about $1,200 or less, a technical panel of NTSB investigators said at a safety board hearing Aug. 3. The systems would add about $1,000 to the cost of a new Class 8 truck, they said.

The NTSB held two days of hearings this week on the rollover of a tank truck carrying petroleum gas last year on Interstate 69 in Indiana that led to an accident and fire involving eight other vehicles, injuring the truck driver and four motorists.

“Rollovers of cargo tank vehicles continue to be serious events,” Deborah A.P. Hersman, NTSB chairman, said at the Aug. 3-4 hearing in Washington.

She said that the NTSB has investigated several heavy truck rollover accidents over the past few decades and made numerous recommendations on vehicle stability, driver training, the crashworthiness of cargo tanks and highway design.

Tank trucks represent only 6 percent of all heavy trucks, but are involved in 31 percent of fatal commercial truck rollover accidents, Hersman said. Their high center of gravity makes them more vulnerable to rollovers, she said.

She said some form of truck driver error is involved in 78 percent of tank truck rollover accidents despite advances in driver education and safety training. “It seems that training cannot prevent all rollovers,” Hersman said.

Although the NTSB has no regulatory power, its recommendations could lead to a Department of Transportation rulemaking or congressional action.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to complete studies on anti-rollover technology for trucks this year, the Associated Press reported.

Nathaniel Beuse, director of crash avoidance standards at NHTSA, said a university study found such systems could prevent 4,400 injuries a year, according to the AP.

Several trucking companies are already using stability systems. Neil Voorhees, safety director at Trimac Transportation, told the NTSB that the technology has cut the tank trucker’s rollover accidents from 11 to one a year, AP reported.

Con-way Freight last month said it would spend $100 million on 1,300 Freightliner trucks with anti-rollover systems as well as other high-tech safety features.

The carrier took part in a pilot project run by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.