Tank truck carriers have convinced federal regulators that allowing truck owners to install pulsating red or amber brake lights on the backs of tank trailers will improve safety despite concerns raised by safety groups.
In a decision scheduled to be filed on Thursday, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) approved a petition filed in September 2019 by the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) that will allow carriers the option to install a red or amber brake-activated pulsating lamp on the backs of trailers, in addition to the steady-burning brake lamps currently required by federal regulations. The exemption from regulations requiring that the lamps be steady burning is for five years.
NTTC supported its request citing federal research showing that rear-end crashes — which amount to roughly 30% of all crashes — are frequently attributed to a following vehicle’s failure or delay to respond to the lead vehicle’s application of brakes to decelerate. That research also reportedly said large trucks are three times more likely to be struck in the rear in two-vehicle fatal crashes than other vehicles.
NTTC also noted a similar exemption granted last year to Enid, Oklahoma-based Groendyke Transport that allowed the company to install brake-activated amber lights on the backs of their trailers. “Groendyke demonstrated that installing these lamps on 632 of their trucks reduced their rear-end collisions by 33.7% and eliminated all highway-rail grade crossing rear-end crashes in a 30-month period,” NTTC stated.
While the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) and the Virginia Department of Transportation agreed with the likely safety improvement provided by amber lights, they were concerned that allowing for red pulsating lights would cause confusion with emergency responders.
Red pulsating lights “may negatively impact the driving public’s recognition and response to emergency vehicles,” CVSA argued. The safety group also warned that the exemption would conflict with state laws in several states.
FMCSA acknowledged those concerns but placed more emphasis on Groendyke Transport’s experience and its own research.
“FMCSA believes that this real-world experience, along with the … research programs that demonstrated the ability of alternative rear signaling systems to reduce the frequency and severity of rear-end crashes, is sufficient to conclude that the implementation of [a] red or amber brake-activated pulsating lamp … in addition to the steady-burning brake lamps required by the regulations is likely to provide a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety achieved without the exemption.”
- Daimler recalls 142,110 Freightliner Cascadias for faulty brake lights
- Brake violations decline during latest inspection blitz
- 5 steps drivers can take to lower their risk of being involved in a crash