WASHINGTON — Federal regulators are proposing a sweeping rule that would require all trucks over 10,000 pounds to be equipped with an automatic emergency braking (AEB) system and an electronic stability control (ESC) system that works in conjunction with AEBs.

The proposal, issued jointly on Thursday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, would go into effect for most new Class 7 and 8 trucks (those with a weight rating of over 26,000 pounds) within three years of the final rule, with most new Class 3-6 trucks (weighing over 10,000 pounds) to meet the requirements within four years.

The NHTSA-FMCSA proposal comes eight years after safety advocates formally petitioned NHTSA for such a rule and was mandated by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law signed in 2021. Collision avoidance technology is also on the National Transportation Safety Board’s “Most Wanted” list of safety regulations.

“Sometimes truck drivers are distracted or fatigued. AEB is effective even when humans make mistakes. This is a slam dunk for roadway safety,” commented Truck Safety Coalition Executive Director Zach Cahalan.

“This technology is a game-changer, capable of significantly reducing truck crashes, injuries, and fatalities,” said Harry Adler, Principal and Co-founder of the Institute for Safer Trucking.

NHTSA, which sets vehicle standards for manufacturers, is proposing a standard that would require the technology to work at speeds ranging between 6 and 50 mph.

FMCSA, which oversees truck driver safety, is proposing that all AEB and ESC systems in commercial vehicles as required by NHTSA’s portion of the rule be engaged by drivers anytime the truck is operating.

The two agencies, which have been sponsoring research and field testing on AEBs for over 10 years, said the rule would prevent an estimated 19,118 crashes, save 155 lives, and prevent 8,814 nonfatal injuries annually. It would eliminate an estimated 24,828 property-damage-only crashes annually as well.

The annual cost of the rule is estimated at $353 million, while generating a net benefit of $1.8 billion to $2.6 billion.

“FMCSA believes the cost of maintaining the ESC and AEB systems over their lifetimes is minimal compared to the cost of equipping trucks with ESC and AEB systems and may be covered by regular annual maintenance,” the agency stated.

Once the rule is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 60 days to comment and suggest alternatives on any aspect of the proposal, the agencies stated, including compliance lead times and whether the rule could disproportionately impact small businesses.

“The trucking industry supports the use of proven safety technology like automatic emergency braking,” said Dan Horvath, American Trucking Associations vice president of safety policy. “We look forward to reviewing this proposal from NHTSA and FMCSA and working with them as it is implemented.”

Related articles:

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Truck safety lobby pressures DOT on crash prevention

Truck crash deaths jump 13% to ‘crisis’ level

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

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