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September 14, 2011 Vol. 7, No. 19

We’re getting somewhere in the fight to prevent truck rollovers, or at least I think we are. Witness, the recent U.S. National Transportation Safety Board recommendation that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration should mandate the retrofitting of roll stability control systems on all in-use tank trailers with a GVW over 10,000 lb.

Note that word ‘retrofitting’. Note that phrase ‘all in-use tank trailers’.

Do you think this will raise a few eyebrows? Maybe cause a little heartburn in the bean counter community?

So be it. I like this one, so much so that I’m going to devote this entire newsletter to the subject. It’s important, not least because it will change the trucks and trailers you buy in future. And make them better.

Note also that the NTSB makes a distinction between roll stability control (RSC) and electronic stability control (ESC), the latter adding understeer/oversteer sensing. They’re both proven to be huge difference makers, the latter somewhat more so. Their performance was detailed in a definitive study published last fall by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It’s called ‘Safety Benefits of Stability Control Systems For Tractor-Semitrailers’.

The NTSB announced its intention to urge the RSC mandate, among other things, last July and the formal recommendations were made on Sept. 2. Unless I missed something along the way, however, that retrofitting mandate was not mentioned in the Board’s press release. But it’s most definitely in the formal document. Odd, that.

Here’s how the NTSB explained its RSC choice, as opposed to ESC, for retrofitting:

"The NTSB concludes that, given the long service life of cargo tanks, 25-50 years could pass before all cargo tank trailers would be equipped with stability control systems. While it is feasible to retrofit trailers with an RSC system, it is not practical to fully integrate sensors and internal communication systems on single-unit trucks and truck-tractors. Consequently, the NTSB is recommending that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) require all in-use cargo tank trailers with a GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds to be retrofitted with an RSC system."

They went further, of course, urging a requirement for stability control systems on all commercial vehicles over 10,000 lb. Here’s how that one was phrased in the final recommendation:

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Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to

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