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DOT to Consider Automatic Emergency Braking Requirement for New Trucks


In the aftermath of a recent deadly truck accident in Phoenix, Arizona , the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it would move to set nationwide standards for automatic emergency braking systems on new trucks.

The agency outlined the new standard in its regulatory agenda issued on June 11. According to the proposal, NHTSA will set standards “over the next year and beyond” requiring new heavy trucks to be equipped with automatic emergency braking technology.

The announcement came after a horrific truck crash in Arizona on June 9, 2021. A tanker truck that failed to slow down when it came upon slowed traffic slammed into seven passenger vehicles on the eastbound side of the Loop 202 Red Mountain Freeway, killing four people and injuring at least nine others. The Phoenix truck accident started a fiery blaze that spread from the tanker truck to another vehicle. The force of the crash disconnected the truck cab from the tanker, which plowed through the median and came to rest on the westbound side of Loop 202.

Emergency responders pronounced four people dead at the scene of the crash. Nine others were taken to area hospitals with injuries. A tenth victim was hurt but declined to go to the hospital.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent a team to investigate the Phoenix crash. One of the questions investigators hope to answer is whether an automatic emergency braking system could have prevented this horrific crash.

What is Automatic Emergency Braking?

Automatic emergency braking technology employs cameras and radar to help prevent or reduce the severity of crashes. The technology works like this: if the system senses that a crash is imminent, it will automatically apply the brakes.

While this technology may seem futuristic, it is not new; a study that followed more than 12,500 trucks over a 30-month period showed that trucks equipped with collision avoidance systems that include automatic emergency braking, air disc brakes, video-based onboard safety monitoring, and lane departure warning experienced:

  • 71% fewer rear-end collisions
  • 63% fewer instances of unsafe following distance
  • 46% fewer instances of improper lane change

The study found that:

Installing automatic emergency braking systems could prevent 5,294 crashes, 2,753 injuries, and 55 deaths each year.

Installing air disc brakes could prevent 2,411 crashes, 1,447 injuries, and 37 deaths each year.

Installing lane departure warning systems could prevent 6,372 crashes, 1,342 injuries, and 115 deaths each year.

Installing video-based onboard safety monitoring systems could prevent 63,000 crashes, 17,733 injuries, and 293 deaths each year.

The study further noted that the economic benefits of equipping all new tractor-trailers with automatic emergency braking systems would outweigh the costs.

Another study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that automatic emergency braking systems and forward-collision warnings could effectively prevent more than 40% of rear-end accidents involving tractor-trailers and other road vehicles. Moreover, even when rear-end crashes did happen, the study reported that automatic emergency braking systems reduced speeds by more than half, which led to reduced injuries and damage.

Why Hasn’t Automatic Emergency Braking Technology Caught on in the Trucking Industry?

Generally speaking, the trucking industry is against stronger regulation, and requiring this new technology is no exception. Trucking safety advocates have pushed for automatic emergency braking technology requirements since 2015. The NHTSA has called for the technology to be standard on all vehicles. While the government agency successfully negotiated an agreement with 20 of the nation’s largest automakers in 2016 to voluntarily make automatic emergency braking systems standard on new passenger vehicles by 2022, the trucking industry has made no effort to embrace the technology.

“We lose thousands of people each year in preventable truck accidents,” says board-certified truck accident attorney Ronald L. M. Goldman. “Making this proven technology a requirement will stop a significant amount of preventable crashes from happening. While the NHTSA’s announcement is a step in the right direction, the agency needs to see this necessary safety improvement through as fast as possible to save lives.” 

Trial Ready Trucking Accident Attorneys

A devastating truck crash can happen in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, for occupants of passenger vehicles, pedestrians, motorcyclists, or bicyclists, an accident with a large truck often results in catastrophic injuries or death.

The truck accident attorneys at Wisner Baum have a proven track record litigating cases on behalf of victims throughout the country. The firm’s trucking case history includes:

  • $20 Million: Commercial Vehicle Jury Verdict
  • $15 Million: Truck Accident Involving a Pedestrian
  • $8.5 Million: Truck Accident Jury Verdict
  • $6.9 Million: Truck Accident Settlement During Trial Against a Large Truck Company
  • $6 Million: Truck Accident Settlement
  • 62 Truck Accident Lawsuits Resolved for $1 Million or More

If you would like to speak with an experienced truck accident lawyer about your case, please contact us or call (855) 948-5098 for a free and confidential case evaluation.



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