An application from a company specializing in pulsating brake lights for trucks has been denied by federal regulators despite strong support from the trucking industry.
Fayetteville, Arkansas-based Intellistop Inc., which makes a device that prompts preexisting brake lights to pulse briefly for added safety when brakes are engaged (see video, below), had sought an industrywide exemption from federal regulations that require all commercial vehicles be equipped with steady-burning brake lamps.
Intellistop’s exemption application, filed in 2020, had been supported by the American Trucking Associations, the Arkansas Trucking Association, Werner Enterprises and several other carriers and individuals.
But the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ruled that a major bar it uses to grant such exemptions — evidence that it would achieve a level of safety equivalent to or greater than would be achieved absent the exemption — had not been cleared.
“While the agency recognizes the existing data that supports the potential safety value of alternative rear-signaling systems in general, it is also mindful of the data deficiencies in this area,” FMCSA stated in a notice to be published in the Federal Register on Friday.
“Data deficiencies include the effect on nearby drivers if many vehicles on a roadway are equipped with pulsing brake lights and whether such lighting would serve to improve driver attention or, alternatively, cause confusion or distraction.”
FMCSA also noted that Intellistop’s exemption request contrasts with previous exemption applications it approved that apply to auxiliary lamps for individual companies and organizations. Intellistop’s exemption, by comparison, would alter the functioning of required lamps and would apply to all commercial vehicles.
“FMCSA is required to monitor implementation of the exemption to ensure compliance with its terms and conditions and ensure that operation under the exemption meets and maintains an equivalent level of safety,” the agency stated. “Because of the broad scope of Intellistop’s application, FMCSA would not be able to sufficiently monitor operations under the exemption.”
Intellistop’s application was not unopposed: An influential dissenter was the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).
CVSA acknowledged data supporting the safety benefits of amber brake-activated pulsing lamps, but it opposed equipping trucks with pulsing red lamps because they are typically associated with emergency vehicles.
“Allowing red pulsating lamps on the rear of commercial motor vehicles may negatively impact the driving public’s recognition and response to emergency vehicles,” CVSA stated. “Further, many states have laws prohibiting nonemergency vehicles from having pulsating red lights. If the exemption allows for the installation of red pulsating lights, it would be in direct conflict with state laws in several states.”
The Transportation Safety Equipment Institute (TSEI), which lobbies for standardization of vehicle safety equipment, also urged FMCSA to deny the application.
“The requirement that stop lamps … be steady burning is longstanding,” TSEI stated. “We do not believe FMCSA should make the leap from pulsating brake-activated warning or auxiliary lamps to pulsating required lamps without a thorough consideration of safety data and research … to ensure consistency across all vehicles equipped with such lamps.”
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