Under the ruling, trailers manufactured before December 1, 1993, must be outfitted with red and white retroreflective tape or reflex reflectors.
The rule covers trailers that have a gross vehicle weight of 10,001 lb. or more and are at least 80 in. wide applies only to trailers used in interstate commerce. Conspicuity tape must be applied to at least 50% of the length of both trailer sides and the full length of the rear of the trailer.
The only fleets exempt from Friday’s deadline are those that used tape that was not red and white when they voluntarily retrofitted their trailers for conspicuity before the ruling went into effect. Those fleets have until June 1, 2009, to replace their current tape with the red and white colors mandated by the federal government.
According to a study released last month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reflective tape reduces side and rear crashes into heavy trailers, particularly at night "when even a vigilant motorist might not see an untreated trailer in time for a crash." The tape reduces non-daylight side and rear impacts into heavy trailers by 29%.
The study, based on data collected by the Florida Highway Patrol and the Pennsylvania State Police between 1997 and 1999, estimates that fully implemented federal visibility requirements for heavy trailers will prevent 7,800 crashes annually. The study also estimates that 191 to 350 fatalities per year will be prevented, along with 3,100 to 5,000 injuries, once all heavy trailers in the U.S. have been equipped with the tape.