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Mirrorless trucks gain heavy favor in NHTSA proposal

Credit: Jim Allen/FreightWaves (in Stoneridge MirrorEye truck)

Revising rules that would allow truck and automobile manufacturers to install cameras in place of side and rearview mirrors has wide support based on comments received by federal safety officials.

An Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in October generated close to 600 comments, most of which were in favor of the plan. The ANPR was issued in response to a 2014 petition filed jointly by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Tesla to allow camera monitor systems (CMS) to replace outside rearview mirrors on cars and a similar petition filed in 2015 by Daimler Trucks North America for heavy trucks.

In addition to improved safety that video cameras provide by reducing or eliminating blind spots, several comments also pointed out economic benefits. “Allowing truck manufacturers to install CMS in lieu of rearview mirrors would unlock a unique opportunity to make a consequential step forward in the aerodynamic performance of heavy-duty tractors,” the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) stated in comments filed in December.

EMA claimed that an estimated 0.8% to 2% improvement in fuel efficiency (from reduced aerodynamic drag caused by eliminating side mirrors) could save a trucking company 160 to 400 gallons of fuel on a single tractor in one year, based on annual consumption of 20,000 gallons of fuel.

“Multiplying that improvement over many trucks in year-over-year operation, the fuel efficiency benefits of CMS would provide enormous financial returns to trucking fleets, not to mention the significant corresponding environmental benefits of reduced criteria pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions.”

The American Trucking Associations, which also supports allowing mirrors to be replaced by cameras, pointed out savings in mirror maintenance costs. “At the current average, shop repair costs are $100-$150 per hour,” ATA commented. “Using these figures, a [commercial motor vehicle] owner may spend $100-$200 twice per year repairing mirror issues (not including the price of parts).”

While it didn’t oppose modifying current regulations to allow for cameras, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) asked NHTSA to consider the effects that a rule change could have on pre-trip, safety and roadside inspection procedures.

“Each of these functions ensure a vehicle is maintained and operated as intended and ensure appropriate visibility for a human driver,” AAMVA pointed out. “But the existence of a CMS may not be visibly apparent to vehicle inspectors and evaluating the functionality of the system may be much more difficult to assess without direct, firsthand knowledge of CMS systems that may be widely disparate in application.”

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) was also concerned about roadside inspections on trucks with cameras instead of mirrors, pointing out that inspectors regularly use a truck’s side mirrors to communicate visually with drivers during their inspections.

“For example, inspectors need to communicate with a driver while checking lighting requirements and make sure that a driver knows when the inspector begins to crawl under a truck as part of a roadside inspection,” CVSA commented. “In addition, the inspector can see whether the driver has remained in the driver’s seat during an inspection, a safety concern for inspectors.”

While NHTSA moves through the rule-change process, two companies that manufacture CMS have been granted temporary exemptions from the current rules by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

In 2018, FMCSA granted Stoneridge Inc. a five-year exemption that allows the company to install its MirrorEye camera system on trucks in lieu of rearview mirrors. Earlier this week the agency granted a similar exemption to Vision Systems North America Inc. to replace rearview mirrors on trucks with its SmartVision high-definition CMS.


  1. Ruben

    Why do not you think about the reverse light for all the trailers if why all the trucks have but so that if we always have a trailer hooked they have not thought about that and the cameras must be installed to the mirrors do not remove the mirrors for safety since mirrors are not damaged like cameras.

  2. Noble1 aka Highway Star - Guiding Light

    “Mirrorless trucks” ??? That’s a deceptive and misleading description of the technology replacing the exterior mirrors . The truck won’t be “mirrorless , LOL !

    In my humble opinion ………

  3. EeeeP

    Okay but what if the device malfunctions? Technology always has glitches and problems. Going down the road and one of your mirror screens stops working? Also mechanics would have to learn how to fix any problems associated with the screen-mirrors…seems like a big waste of time.

    1. MrBigR504

      Yep, seeing as the new truck itself is a piece of crap, i know it won’t be long before those screens go blank! And like you said, the repair bill for that tech that has to troubleshoot and repair or replace that stuff will have you walking bowlegged after you see that bill…. LMAO. Naaaaw leave my west coast mirrors on my 1996 W900L alone! Now i did see a guy that parks close to me with a dash camera and a small camera on each side of his sleeper and one at the top rear (between the marker lights) on his trailer that is a real nice install but its for security and safety. But its real nice!

  4. Noble1

    Another benefit by removing exterior mirrors and rendering them interior would be due to eliminating windshield washer fluid from ending up in the mirrors and smearing them . This is a safety issue , a major one .

    These Trucks have been poorly designed . They need a total make over .

    In my humble opinion ………..

    1. Noble1

      Interior rearview truck mirrors would also eliminate rain/snow from smearing them as well . Major benefit rendering them interior .

      In regards to DOT & MOT , perhaps they should have a continuous voice & audio connection with the driver at all times while inspecting their trucks . In this day and age we have CELL PHONES with blue tooth head sets ! If DOT or MOT are lying underneath the truck to inspect it on the road , they should be 100% in connection with the driver at all times for safety reasons . Do these inspectors chock the wheels before lying underneath the truck and or trailer on the road ?

      In my humble opinion …………

  5. Eli

    I would be interested in cost. How much does the system cost as a whole, given the maximum usage for fuel we’d be sitting around $1,400 per year, average lifespan of a truck in a fleet is around is what, 3-4 years? We’ll give maximum benefit here and say 4 so that would be a savings of $5,600. This isn’t including any future maintenance costs or issues where a roadside repair vendor isn’t able to work on this system.

    Also, what happens if the system (or a side of the system) goes down, you have zero visibility. In turn we’ll have to tow to a dealer who is hopefully qualified to work on this.

    Then, we have to weigh in on how often we have to replace mirror assemblies or glass on mirrors (It’s not that often). A mirror assembly is roughly $1,200 and a glass replacement is much less.

    I guess I’m just not sold on this from a cost savings point of view. The idea is great with elimination of blind spots, but I’m not completely sold. Maybe I’m completely missing something though!

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.