Tax credits for a spate of trucking safety technologies will be debated when the U.S. Senate reconvenes in the fall, courtesy of a new bill introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) last week – one that mirrors a similar piece of legislation crafted for the U.S. House of Representatives in October of last year.

The Safety Technology Tax Credit Bill (S. 3428) focuses on four key points: providing a tax credit equal to 50% of the cost of a qualified system, up to $1,500; allowing for a total credit of up to $3,500 per vehicle; limiting the qualifying taxpayer to a maximum credit of $350,000 per taxable year; and extending credit eligibility for the purchase of school buses, intercity buses and vehicles used in commerce weighing over 26,000 lbs.

S. 3428 is a companion bill to H.R. 3820, known as the “Commercial Motor Vehicle Advanced Safety Technology Tax Act,” introduced last October by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Rep. Ron Lewis (R-KY) in the House.

“The technology is there to improve commercial vehicle safety and it’s proven, so what these bills do is encourage fleets to install them on their equipment,” Ann Wilson, senior vp of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA), told FleetOwner. “It’s totally voluntary, but the tax incentives help get the technology on the ground faster.”

According to the Dept. of Transportation, almost 5,000 individuals were killed and approximately 100,000 were injured on our nation's highways in accidents involving heavy-duty vehicles in 2006. Both the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) identified rear end collisions, side swipe accidents, and running off the road or out of lane as the critical event that caused over 60% of these accidents, with brake problems factors in 30% of these crashes.

Today, technology is available to help mitigate those types of accidents, said MEMA’s Wilson, which is why it’s critical to encourage wider deployment of these products throughout the trucking industry. In March of 2006, FMCSA and NHTSA released The Large Truck Crash Causation Study, which identified existing safety technology, including collision warning, lane departure warning, and blind spot warning systems; vehicle stability systems; and brake stroke monitoring systems, all which address these types of crashes.

Wilson added that the caps on the tax credits are designed to help spread the adoption of the safety technology throughout the motor carrier industry, not just to larger fleets. “It’s aimed at trying to get as many fleets as possible to adopt the safety technology that’s right for their operation, especially the smaller carriers,” she noted.

It’s also important that this potential legislation is now on the ground and being consider by both the Senate and the House ahead of the presidential election in November, said Steve Keppler, director of policy and planning for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).

“Rather than mandate the adoption of specific safety technologies at the federal level – a process that can take years – these bills offer fleets an incentive to get those systems on the ground now, and start saving lives now,” Keppler told FleetOwner. “Also, with a change in the [presidential] administration coming up, it’s good timing to be have these bills already moving through the legislative process.”

View more Fleet Owner news relating to trucking safety, trucking regulations and driver awareness.