Today the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a new federal motor vehicle safety standard that would require electronic stability control (ESC) systems on large commercial trucks, motorcoaches and other large buses for the first time. According to NHTSA, its research indicates such systems could prevent up to 56% of rollover crashes annually as well as cut loss-of-control crashes by 14%.

“The Department and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have long recognized the potential impact of stability control technology in reducing deaths and serious injuries that result from rollover crashes,” said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.  

NHTSA said  “extensive” research to determine how available stability-control technologies affect crashes involving commercial vehicles found ESC systems to be the most effective tool for reducing the propensity for heavy vehicles to rollover or lose control.

According to the agency, with sensors that monitor vehicle movement and steering, ESC can help mitigate rollover incidents by using automatic computer-controlled braking. In addition, it said these systems aid the driver in addressing severe understeer or oversteer conditions that can lead to loss of control.

NHTSA estimated that a standard requiring ESC on the nation’s large trucks and large buses would prevent up to 2,329 crashes, eliminate an estimated 649 to 858 injuries and prevent between 49 and 60 fatalities a year.

“We’ve already seen how effective stability control can be at reducing rollovers in passenger vehicles—the ability for this type of technology to save lives is one reason it is required on cars and light-duty trucks beginning with model year 2012,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “Now, we’re expanding our efforts to require stability enhancing technology on the many large trucks, motorcoaches, and other large buses on our roadways.”

NHTSA pointed out that while many tractors and large buses can currently be ordered with this technology, the proposed standard would require ESC systems as standard equipment on these types of vehicles.

As proposed, the rule would take effect between two and four years after the standard is finalized, depending on the type of vehicle.

The agency said its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on ESC is being published in the Federal Register and members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposal for 90 days. NHTSA noted it will also hold a public hearing on the proposed safety standard to solicit further public comment, adding that the date and location of that hearing will be published in the coming weeks.