New Federal Law for Commercial Trucks: ESC Required to Fight Fatal Truck Crashes

New Federal Law for Commercial Trucks: ESC Required to Fight Fatal Truck Crashes

Recently, the federal government via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began requiring a new safety feature on many of the big rigs, semi trucks, and other commercial trucks that we share the roads and highways with here in Indiana and Illinois. Some buses are included in the new federal regulation too, specifically intercity buses. School buses are not covered by this new safety regulation.

New Federal Rule is Preemption of State Personal Injury Accident Laws

This new gizmo is called “electronic stability control” or ESC. It’s going to be required on heavy commercial motor vehicles driving on U.S. roads — and the new regulation also impacts state law regarding negligence law and accident claims.

Specifically, the federal rule states that Indiana and Illinois state law causes of action based on tort law (e.g., negligence, product liability, etc.) against motor vehicle manufacturers will be preempted by federal law if the state law has a lower standard than the one set up by this new federal regulation. However, if there is a higher standard set by the state, then the rule keeps it in place.

In other words, this new federal safety standard sets the minimum standard or bar for truck makers in accident cases.

Read the new federal rule here. It is effective on August 24, 2015.

Why Have ESC on Commercial Motor Vehicles Like Tractor Trailer Rigs?

NHTSA believes that implementing ESC requirements across the country for heavy weight vehicles will mean less tractor trailer truck crashes and fewer bus accidents and less people dying in commercial vehicle accidents.

According to the federal research estimates, each year NHTSA expects ESC will protect against 1,424 to 1,759 truck crashes, 505 to 649 injuries, and 40 to 49 fatalities.

“Reducing crashes through ESC in these trucks and buses will save lives – nearly 50 each year. It will move goods and people more efficiently and reduce the toll crashes take on our economy through traffic delays and property damage,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “It’s a win for the safety and convenience of the traveling public and for our economy.”

What is Electronic Stability Control or ESC for Trucks and Buses?

The NHTSA describes it as “ESC works instantly and automatically to maintain directional control in situations where the driver’s own steering and braking cannot be accomplished quickly enough to prevent the crash.“ Essentially, there is computerized assistance to the driver that allows for emergency intervention if the gizmo senses that the vehicle is veering off the road or the steering is otherwise out of control.  The ESC will hit the brakes if its sensors read a loss of steering control, and the ESC will also slow the vehicle until its sensors report that the danger of a loss of control has passed.

For details, check out the explanation on HowStuffWorks as to how ESC applies to sedans made by car makers like Mercedes-Benz and BMW, who have been including ESC on their models for several years now.

Many may recognize electronic stability control by other names, like an “electronic stability program” or a “dynamic stability control.”  Whatever the label, bottom line it is another step toward automation of the commerical truck through advancing computer technology.

ESC is being promoted for use in heavy vehicles as a way to keep people safer on the roads.  It’s true that the likelihood of dying when you are in a big rig semi truck crash is high, we’ve discussed that tragic reality in many prior posts.  However, whether or not using computerized technology  to drive those big heavy vehicles on the road is wise is an issue that is being debated right now — ESC is the law, however: that debate is done.

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