Proposed Bill Would Require New Safety Tech on Big Rigs
In the past year and a half, Georgia’s Interstate 16 has been the site of two accidents involving tractor-trailers that have resulted in 10 deaths. In April, five Georgia Southern Nursing students were killed when they were struck from behind by a semi truck. Another five lost their lives a month later in a similar situation. In an effort to prevent tragedies such as these, Congressman Hank Johnson is putting a bill before Congress that would require automatic breaking systems on all new commercial vehicles.
Volvo is the maker of innovative technology that uses sensors to alert drivers if they are too close to another car on the road. If the driver doesn’t react and step on the brake, the truck will take over and do it automatically. First, a low braking force will be applied and if the driver still hasn’t taken action, a full emergency brake is executed.
The truck is aware of it complete surroundings, constantly sweeping a 360 circle around the exterior of the truck. It can then analyze and actually predict what human and vehicles counterparts on the street and sidewalk are going to do, up to five seconds in the future. If the trucker misses a cyclist or pedestrian in their limited field of vision, the truck will alert them of their presence. The system can help eliminate human error and prevent accidents, saving lives.
Currently, when a truck driver sees a need to immediately stop, his/her reaction time plus the actual length it takes for him/her to stop is the length of a football field. If an automatic braking system can shave 5 or 6 seconds off that time, it could be the difference between someone living or dying.
For years, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has been pressured by advocates for highway safety to write and pass rules that would require collision assistance technology on new vehicles but the bill Johnson proposed would go one step further and make it a law. “This legislation will put some hard deadlines on when to adopt this technology. If we don’t do that then we’ll just see time passing us by,” Johnson said.
Earlier this year, the United Postal Service announced they would be equipping all new trucks with the system, but others aren’t so eager. While it may seem like a no-brainer to install automatic breaking systems on all commercial vehicles, those in the trucking industry aren’t excited about making it required by law. “We are encouraged by what we’ve seen so far and we are anxious to evaluate some additional real world truck data before they are mandated by law,” a spokesman for the American Trucking Association said.
In 2011, data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration showed their were 130,000 accidents that involved commercial motor vehicles. From those crashes, 4,000 people were killed and 80,000 others were injured. If all commercial vehicles would install this automating braking technology, the nation would see those numbers greatly reduced.