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Make anti-rollover technology standard on new trucks: CTA

By James Menzies TORONTO, Ont. - The summer of '07 earned the dubious distinction of being termed the "Summer of the Rollover" after a number of highprofile truck rollovers snarled traffic on major hi...

By James Menzies TORONTO, Ont. – The summer of ’07 earned the dubious distinction of being termed the “Summer of the Rollover” after a number of highprofile truck rollovers snarled traffic on major highways in the Greater Toronto Area, causing commuter chaos and media mayhem.

While most of the accidents were caused by four-wheelers weaving in and out of traffic, the trucking industry still took a beating in the mainstream media. Aiming to proactively address the problem, the Ontario Trucking Association (and by extension, the Canadian Trucking Alliance) called on truck manufacturers to make antirollover technology mandatory on all new trucks.

There are varying levels of stability technologies available, ranging from roll-only systems that focus on lateral acceleration which typically occurs in a rollover situation, to the more sophisticated full-stability systems that also incorporate a yaw and steer angle sensor which interpret driver input. There are also trailer-only systems.

“Our members are convinced that the current anti-rollover technology performs well with all types of tractor-trailer configurations and should become part of all standard new vehicle packages,” David Bradley, president of the OTA announced at the association’s annual convention in mid-November.

The association has written to all truck makers, urging them to make the technology standard on new vehicles. As Truck West went to press, Barrie Montague, senior policy advisor with the OTA said “We’re in a waiting situation because they haven’t responded yet.”

Volvo and Mack already have made stability systems a nondeletable option on new trucks, meaning customers can opt to remove the system, but they’ll pay for it regardless, which greatly reduces any temptation to do so.

Frank Bio, marketing manager with Volvo Trucks North America, pointed out Volvo went standard with its Volvo Enhanced Stability Technology on highway tractors in 2005. He said the company supports the OTA’s policy.

“We support it and are excited any has organization determined that it should be standard,” he told Truck West.

In developing its policy, the CTA canvassed member fleets and according to Montague, even those that do not currently spec’ antirollover systems were on board.

“The survey we did indicated they all think it’s a good idea – even the ones that didn’t have it said it’s a good idea,” Montague said. “Technology is becoming a very significant part of our industry…we have to adopt these things, it’s the right thing to do.”

Not surprisingly, manufacturers of stability systems were encouraged by the position taken by the OTA and its national umbrella organization.

“This is actually great news when an organization like CTA recognizes the value of technology such as stability systems – our concern is that they didn’t go far enough,” said Fred Andersky, marketing manager, electronics, with Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems. He noted there’s a big difference between “full-” and “roll-only” stability systems and Bendix would have preferred the association to call upon manufacturers to make full-stability systems standard.

“We applaud the CTA’s efforts but we would have liked to see them go further,” he said.

Mark Melletat, marketing director with Meritor WABCO, said “Obviously, we have a great deal of interest in how OTA will pursue that (policy).” Meritor WABCO offers both a Roll Stability Control (RSC) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system.

Melletat said that if government gets involved in forcing the use of stability systems, he hopes they stop short of specifying particular types.

“We’d like to see a performance measurement established,” he said. “Don’t dictate the type of technology, dictate the performance of that technology. A performance measurement allows flexibility for future design and doesn’t specify all the componentry.”

Most fleets that currently spec’ stability systems believe strongly in the technology. Melletate said the “re-buy” rate (the percentage of fleets that purchase the system a second time) is nearly 100%.

“Typically, it’s the more educated fleets that are spec’ing the products,” he said. “Those that spend a little more time in their research and have pretty extensive data.”

He said one customer reduced its rollovers by 85% after implementing Meritor’s RSC system.

Montague said Canadian fleets using anti-rollover technology have noted a reduction in rollovers and all their associated costs.

“These things become an expensive accident,” he pointed out. “It’s not like a fender bender when these things roll over. Often there are environmental problems and chaos being created.”

But at a time when stringent emissions standards are driving up the purchase price of new trucks, will the industry welcome the mandatory use of technology that will inevitably further add to the cost of new vehicles? And just how much more will trucks cost if stabil-ity systems do become standard?

Montague said the additional cost is as little as $800 per truck and with a four-or five-year life cycle “a $200 per year increase in premium on that truck is well spent.”

More specifically, the Meritor WABCO RSC system is listed in the data book at about US$750. Its ESC system costs about US$1,500. The Bendix full-stability system lists for about US$1,900-$2,100, with OEMs ultimately setting the price, noted Andersky.

Depending on your negotiating skills and the size of your order, however, customers would likely pay less than the list price.

“When you figure that into the total price of the vehicle, it’s less than 2%. And when you take discounts into effect, it’s less than 1% when it comes down to it,” Andersky pointed out. “If you look at the list cost of a chrome bumper, it’s about $1,700-$1,900. So if you’re willing to put something shiny on the front, it might be nice to have something that keeps the shiny side up and doesn’t cost a lot more.”

And as Volvo’s Bio pointed out, there are economies of scale at play as well.

“As volumes go up, we’re able to negotiate better pricing,” he said. “And because we’re using higher volumes, the cost goes down for installation. The people on the lines are more familiar with it because they’re putting more on and there are fewer issues with rework.”

For now, OTA is anxiously awaiting a response from truck manufacturers. Montague said the association hopes they agree to make stability systems standard, so government intervention is not required. But if they fail to do so, the OTA appears poised to ask government to mandate the use of the technology.

“If we get the response that they will in fact make this mandatory, then we don’t need government to do anything,” Montague told Truck West. “I suspect this is going to be similar to the ABS situation, where carriers were introducing ABS long before it became a (government) mandated requirement.”

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