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Congress starts down road to automatic braking mandate

Owner-operators concerned, skeptical about requiring ‘flawed’ technology

OOIDA contends more testing needed before mandating AEB. (Photo: IIHS)

Legislation introduced this week on Capitol Hill requiring automatic emergency braking (AEB) and lane-assist technology on all new trucks is being praised by safety advocates but rejected by small-business truckers.

The Protecting Roadside First Responders Act, introduced through companion bills in the House and Senate, is aimed at reducing roadside crashes involving distracted driving. It requires advanced driver assistance systems, including AEB, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and blind-zone detection systems on commercial vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds.

Similar to an AEB regulation included in an infrastructure bill passed by the House (but not the Senate) last year, the bill requires that the technology be installed on all new trucks for the model year beginning no later than two years after the date of the final rule.

“To help save lives and reverse the alarming rise in first-responder roadside deaths, we must increase the use of crash-avoidance technologies and awareness of ‘Move Over’ laws,” said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., in introducing the legislation. “The Protecting Roadside First Responders Act will require lifesaving technologies in all new vehicles while providing states with the resources they need to help keep our first responders safe.”

In a letter to Durbin and his colleagues co-sponsoring the bill, the Truck Safety Coalition asserted that it would reduce highway deaths.

“When this lifesaving bill is enacted into law and the safety reforms are implemented, we will finally realize significant and sustained reductions in highway crashes, deaths, injuries and costs,” the group said. “As survivors of large truck crashes, as well as family members whose loved ones were needlessly killed or injured in a large truck crash, we share your goal of advancing laws and government regulations to achieve safer vehicles, safer drivers and safer roads for everyone.”

Independent owner-operators, however, question the safety benefits of current AEB technology, contending that it “remains flawed.”

In a letter sent this week to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Todd Spencer, president and CEO of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), stated that AEB systems, “especially for heavy vehicles, have still not been perfected and drivers have encountered serious problems with the technology while on the road.”

Spencer pointed out that his members have shared practical concerns with current AEB technology, including difficulty controlling trucks in bad weather when systems are activated and “highly distracting” false alarms.

Spencer’s letter was in anticipation of the committee’s work on new infrastructure bills that might include provisions, such as AEB and other mandates that OOIDA deems harmful to its members.

“The highway bill is supposed to promote growth, not destroy small businesses,” Spencer said. “In particular, we are concerned about insurance and tolling, but would like to see the next highway bill modified to address all of our concerns.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.


  1. Harry N

    Very typical of our government sticking their nose into something they know nothing about. This technology is not only flawed but extremely dangerous. Brandon is correct when he stated, “The only thing that’s nice is the blind spot detection that I like other than that the rest of it is garbage.”

  2. Freight logistics enterprises LLC

    If they truly wanted safety, they would target the 75% that causes the accidents… IE; Cars … But in reality that should mandate the AEB systems in ALL vehicles just like seat belts!!!

    1. Outside Sales

      In theory, this is a great idea. However, I have this system on my company car and I have numerous situations in which the brakes are applied in an all or nothing fashion that sends anything not bolted down flying forward. In one instance the brakes applied and I was rear-ended by a pickup truck landing me in the hospital for a week. In another instance, the brakes were applied as I exited a driveway and I needed to turn a sharp right into the right turn pocket. The brakes locked and took a few seconds to release and allow me to move. In that instance, the oncoming driver had time to stop but was screaming at me for stopping in the lane when I could have made the turn.

      We have elected a gaggle of well-meaning idiots to run our country but they need to spend a little more time talking to the people that actually use these things.

  3. Brandon hopkins

    I’ve drove a few trucks with these systems in them and they are very flawed. You can be driving down the road with nothing infront of you and they will slam on the brakes and in ice that’s dangerous. The lane control is also flawed and I’ve currently got one that has issues with it. The only thing that’s nice is the blind spot detection that I like other than that the rest of it is garbage

  4. Devin Eaton

    Maybe when someone when enough drivers running flat bed. Have the freight come through th back of th cab b/c the auto breaking kicks in on something that it’s not supposed to. And drivers start suing the S#!+ out of the companies that implement them. They will realize that this is extremely stupid.

  5. Mike

    This is ridiculous… Hopefully this will be my last year out here, the insanity of the government and their regulations is no longer worth the entry fee.

Comments are closed.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.