Personal Injury

Mandate Proposed for Automatic Emergency Braking Systems in Heavy Trucks

If approved, AEBs could save lives and help prevent thousands of truck accidents.

When truck drivers are unable to stop in an emergency, disaster often follows. Due to factors such as poorly maintained brakes, truck driver fatigue, and increased stopping distance, there are approximately 60,000 rear-end accidents in the U.S. every year in which the heavy vehicle is the striking vehicle.

To address this serious truck accident problem, in late June, three federal transportation and safety organizations jointly announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that, if approved, would require Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) systems in new large trucks. AEBs are often effective in passenger vehicles. Requiring them in new trucks could significantly improve roadway safety for everyone.

If the proposal becomes an enforceable regulation, it is expected to prevent 19,118 crashes, save 155 lives, and prevent 8,814 injuries annually, according to National Highway Transportation Safety Administration statistics. An AEB rule could be especially good news for Texas, which frequently leads the nation in reported fatal truck accidents.

"Advanced driver assistance systems like AEB have the power to save lives," said NHTSA Chief Counsel Ann Carlson in a statement. "Today's announcement is an important step forward in improving safety on our nation's roadways by reducing, and ultimately eliminating, preventable tragedies that harm Americans."

AEB function and support

Automatic Emergency Braking systems utilize advanced sensor technologies like radar, lidar, or cameras to monitor the road ahead. These sensors constantly scan for potential obstacles, including vehicles, pedestrians, or stationary objects. If the system detects an imminent collision, it activates a series of warnings to alert the driver. In some cases, if the driver fails to respond, the AEB system can autonomously apply the brakes to mitigate or avoid the impact.

The NHTSA is joined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Coach Administration (FMCSA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) in proposing AEBs for trucks. And, while trucking companies have fought against some proposed safety and equipment regulations in the past, that's not the case with AEBs. In general, trucking industry leaders have long supported mandatory emergency brakes in trucks.

"The trucking industry supports the use of proven safety technology like automatic emergency braking," said Dan Horvath, American Trucking Association VP of Safety Policy, in a statement. "We look forward to reviewing this proposal from NHTSA and FMCSA and working with them as it is implemented."

Proposed rule impact

Many people in the industry and safety advocates see the benefits of requiring AEBs. Here are some of the benefits anticipated if auto emergency brakes become required in large trucks like semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, construction vehicles, garbage trucks, big rigs, 18-wheelers, etc.:

  • Collision prevention. By providing an additional layer of safety, AEB systems can significantly reduce the risk of rear-end collisions, especially in scenarios where sudden obstacles or congestion occur.
  • Less room for driver error. Human error is a leading cause of accidents, and by integrating AEB systems into heavy trucks, the reliance on driver response and attentiveness can be mitigated, reducing the chances of accidents caused by distracted or fatigued drivers.
  • Enhanced safety for vulnerable road users. Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable in accidents involving heavy trucks. AEB systems can help detect and react to their presence, potentially saving lives and reducing injuries.
  • Improved braking performance. AEB systems can react faster than human drivers, reducing braking distances and optimizing the effectiveness of the braking system. This enhancement in braking performance can be critical in emergency situations.

Claims involving tractor-trailers are often complicated

While AEB systems can help mitigate the risk of serious and fatal truck wrecks, they won't eliminate them entirely. Accidents can still happen, and crash victims need to protect their legal rights.

Keep in mind that truck accident claims are complex due to several factors.

First, the size and weight of an 18-wheeler often cause severe damage and life-altering injuries in a collision, making the stakes higher than in regular claims involving just smaller passenger vehicles. Additionally, determining liability in truck accidents can be challenging, as multiple parties such as the truck driver, trucking company, vehicle manufacturer, or the company that loaded the cargo may share responsibility for the crash.

Gathering evidence, dealing with insurance companies, and navigating complex regulations specific to the trucking industry further contribute to the complexity of these claims.

A truck accident lawyer can protect your rights

At Tracey Fox & Walters, we have more than 100 years of combined legal experience fighting for accident victims in Texas. We see the devastating effect serious truck accidents have on individuals, loved ones, and the community, and we are committed to helping clients navigate the complexities of truck accident claims through effective legal representation.

Our dedicated legal team understands the unique challenges involved in these cases, and we are here to help.

If you were injured or a loved one died in a Texas truck accident, our law firm can listen to the details of your case, answer your questions, and explain your potential legal options during a free case evaluation. Our offices are in San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston, Texas. Contact us today to see how we can help you.

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