White House reviewing NHTSA’s stopping distance proposal

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has finished drafting its proposal to reduce the required stopping distance for new heavy-duty truck tractors, and the White House Office of Management and Budget is reviewing the document.

Under federal regulations governing rulemakings, the specifics of a proposed or final rule are not disclosed until the White House reviews it and the agency sends it to the Federal Register for publication.

The long-anticipated proposal would revise Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 121, which currently requires a loaded tractor-trailer traveling 60 mph to stop within 355 feet. In 1970, NHTSA proposed changes in FMVSS 121 to shorten that requirement substantially, but the industry persuaded the agency that its proposed standard was not feasible at the time.

A very aggressive change in the stopping standard might require air disc brakes and/or electronically controlled braking systems. A more moderate standard — which many observers expect — might allow truckmakers to meet the standard with higher-performing drum brakes.

Whatever the new requirement, it will be several years before new trucks will be required to feature the new braking systems. There is no deadline for NHTSA to publish the proposal, so White House review could take weeks or months. Once issued, interested parties would have an opportunity to comment before a final rule is issued. And once the rule is adopted, NHTSA would give truckmakers and their suppliers time to engineer the new requirements into trucks rolling off assembly lines.