Feds taking a close look at stability systems

OTTAWA — For the time being Transport Canada’s awareness campaign regarding Electronic Stability Control (ESC) technology is focusing on passenger vehicles, but it may be a sign of things to come.

ESC helps drivers maintain control when swerving or braking to avoid an obstacle and in cornering when road conditions are slippery. While ESC is an exciting new safety feature, it does not replace driver prudence and good tire and brake maintenance.

At its annual convention in November, the Ontario Trucking Association revealed a national effort is underway to persuade North American manufacturers of Class 8 tractors to voluntarily make anti-rollover technology standard equipment in their new vehicle packages.

The U.S. government recently announced ESC will be mandatory on all new cars and light trucks by 2011. The Government of Canada is currently engaged in consultations to determine whether ESC should also be mandated on light duty-vehicles in this country.

Transport Canada recently released a video demonstrating the benefits of ESC on dry, snow-covered and wet pavement. The video has six scenarios that show a vehicle travelling towards the camera at approximately 80 kilometres/hour. While all scenarios are involving a passenger vehicle, it provides visual demonstration of the technologies capability.

According to Transport Canada, preliminary analysis of 2000-2005 Canadian crash data indicates that vehicles equipped with ESC were involved in approximately 30 percent fewer severe crashes due to loss of control than non-ESC equipped vehicles. Based on 2005 collision data alone, if all passenger vehicles were equipped with ESC, there would be at least 255 fewer deaths and 1,440 fewer people seriously injured on our roads each year.

Based on the preliminary results of the ESC effectiveness analysis, Transport Canada is: exploring various alternatives, including international best practices, to accelerate the availability of ESC on new passenger vehicles sold in Canada; encouraging all manufacturers to provide ESC as a standard safety feature on all vehicles; developing a proposal, which would require ESC on all new light vehicles sold in Canada; and encouraging Canadians to ask for ESC the next time they buy or import a vehicle.

For commercial trucks there are presently three main manufacturers of anti-rollover devices in North America. The technology uses sensors that detect when a vehicle may be reaching a state of instability and will intervene by reducing throttle and applying the brakes on the steer, drive and trailer axles as needed to help the driver regain control and mitigate the potential loss of control or rollover situation.

At the present time, two manufacturers have made one of the ant-rollover systems standard equipment on all new Class 8 trucks they sell in North America. The other six manufacturers offer an anti-rollover system as an option.

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