Legislation introduced this week on Capitol Hill requiring automatic emergency braking (AEB) and lane-assist technology on all new trucks is being praised by safety advocates but rejected by small-business truckers.

The Protecting Roadside First Responders Act, introduced through companion bills in the House and Senate, is aimed at reducing roadside crashes involving distracted driving. It requires advanced driver assistance systems, including AEB, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and blind-zone detection systems on commercial vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds.

Similar to an AEB regulation included in an infrastructure bill passed by the House (but not the Senate) last year, the bill requires that the technology be installed on all new trucks for the model year beginning no later than two years after the date of the final rule.

“To help save lives and reverse the alarming rise in first-responder roadside deaths, we must increase the use of crash-avoidance technologies and awareness of ‘Move Over’ laws,” said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., in introducing the legislation. “The Protecting Roadside First Responders Act will require lifesaving technologies in all new vehicles while providing states with the resources they need to help keep our first responders safe.”

In a letter to Durbin and his colleagues co-sponsoring the bill, the Truck Safety Coalition asserted that it would reduce highway deaths.

“When this lifesaving bill is enacted into law and the safety reforms are implemented, we will finally realize significant and sustained reductions in highway crashes, deaths, injuries and costs,” the group said. “As survivors of large truck crashes, as well as family members whose loved ones were needlessly killed or injured in a large truck crash, we share your goal of advancing laws and government regulations to achieve safer vehicles, safer drivers and safer roads for everyone.”

Independent owner-operators, however, question the safety benefits of current AEB technology, contending that it “remains flawed.”

In a letter sent this week to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Todd Spencer, president and CEO of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), stated that AEB systems, “especially for heavy vehicles, have still not been perfected and drivers have encountered serious problems with the technology while on the road.”

Spencer pointed out that his members have shared practical concerns with current AEB technology, including difficulty controlling trucks in bad weather when systems are activated and “highly distracting” false alarms.

Spencer’s letter was in anticipation of the committee’s work on new infrastructure bills that might include provisions, such as AEB and other mandates that OOIDA deems harmful to its members.

“The highway bill is supposed to promote growth, not destroy small businesses,” Spencer said. “In particular, we are concerned about insurance and tolling, but would like to see the next highway bill modified to address all of our concerns.”

Related articles:

Speed limiters, automatic braking on NTSB Most Wanted List
Viewpoint: 8 burning questions about trucking regulations
IIHS: Truck safety equipment could cut 40% of rear-end collisions

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