NHTSA official forecasts heavy-duty safety products

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were more than 43,000 highway deaths in 2005, and 5,212 of those deaths involved large truck crashes.

Stephen Kratzke, NHTSA’s association administrator for rulemaking, opened his discussion of safety products and regulations for the heavy-duty industry with this sobering number at the 2008 Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association’s Heavy Duty Dialogue, held Monday, Jan. 21, in Las Vegas, Nev.

According to Kratzke, the percentage of total highway deaths resulting from large trucks has remained relatively steady since 1985. “The returns on what we’re currently doing have leveled,” Kratzke says. “We need to do more.” He called for government and industry cooperation in improving accident avoidance technology, and went on to discuss both near-term and longer-term projects NHTSA is working on.

Near-term safety projects include reduced stopping distance of between 20 and 30 percent using larger S-cam drum brakes or disc brakes; the final rule is expected in the middle of this year. Other projects include an updated brake hose standard and an upgraded tire standard.

Projects in development that the industry can expect to see in three to five years include electronic stability control regulations and energy independence legislation. Longer-term projects involve lane departure warning and forward collision warning systems for heavy-duty vehicles, as well as tire pressure monitoring systems and auto-inflation of tires.

Kratzke also discussed international harmonization, citing a 1998 agreement between the United States, the European Union, South Africa, Japan, Korea, China and India to build global technical regulations. He again stressed how industry involvement is key when developing regulations and encouraged manufacturer participation, citing significant safety innovations from suppliers, particularly in brake technology.