Bendix expert suggests minimal cost impact from safety technology
The seemingly never-ending run of new mandates descending on the trucking industry is causing plenty of sticker shock for those who buy trucks – especially if you haven’t bought one in a while.
Environmental Protection Agency Phase 1 Greenhouse Gas Emissions rules added some $6,200 to the base cost of a truck on average and Phase 2, which will be phased in over the next eight years, will add another $11,000 per tractor, EPA estimates. Add in the ELD mandate later this year, a potential speed limiter requirement or collision mitigation technology, and the costs can add up quickly.
Fortunately, there is one mandate upcoming that won’t be hitting fleets in the pocketbook, at least not significantly. As of Aug. 1, 2017, 6x4 tractors will be required to have full electronic stability control systems installed. The systems will be required on Class 8 motorcoaches in June 2018 and all remaining tractors and Class 7 trucks by August 2019.
The Dept. of Transportation estimates the cost to add those systems is about $600, although that may have been based on a Volvo Trucks 2008 cost estimate, says Fred Andersky, director of government and industry affairs for Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, which makes a system.
“It may be a little more than that,” Andersky tells FreightWaves. “But compared to environmental regulations, stability is a steal. I really don’t see this mandate having a big factor in the cost of tractors.”
The mandate calls for full stability systems on tractors; there is no trailer requirement even though there are trailer stability systems.
“We find that the majority of stability control, when it is based on the tractor, you get more stability than when it is based on the trailer,” Andersky says, adding that about 90-95% of vehicle stability comes from the tractor. “[Adding trailer stability] does add to stability. We found in testing that maximum stability is achieved when you have both tractor and trailer stability.”
Full stability control systems provide protection against rollovers and loss of control situations. Andersky stresses that a rollover can still occur and fleets must continue to teach good driving techniques.
“As much as I’d like to say install this system and you’ll never roll over again, that is not true. What we say is we are there to prevent a driver from having a bad day. We’re there to back up their safe driving practices, not replace their safe driving practices,” Andersky says. “Drivers should continue to drive in the safe manner they are already driving in, although drivers should learn about the equipment on their vehicle.”
One of the reasons Andersky doesn’t believe there will be a jump in truck prices due to the systems is because several manufacturers – Volvo, Mack, Kenworth and Peterbilt – have already made the systems standard on their on-highway vehicles and should already be baked into the price. Those buying vehicles from other manufacturers may see a price increase.
Another reason is that the systems have been growing in popularity for several years. “A lot of large fleets are already out there with full stability,” Andersky notes.
“I think it’s important to remember that stability is one of those foundation technologies that will get us to autonomous vehicles,” he points out. “I think people should not look at stability as something that adds cost to the vehicle, but as a foundation technology.
Andersky also touched on a couple of topics, including collision mitigation and whether a mandate is upcoming, as many expected just a year ago.
“A couple of years ago, I would have said we would see some sort of regulation, but now I’m not so sure,” he says. “I really think NHTSA’s focus is on autonomous systems because I think they believe there is a bigger bang for their regulatory buck.”
One holdup on mandating these systems could be the quickly evolving technology. A few years ago, Bendix introduced its Wingman system. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute studied the systems last year, but that study was on previous generation technology. The Bendix Wingman Advanced next-generation system was introduced last year and Andersky thinks the government may want to study the latest technology before introducing any rule.
“They are evaluating, which means there isn’t a great rush to add regulations,” Andersky explains. “There may be more advances and they may want to study those.”
Andersky also said he likes the flexible approach FMCSA has taken towards autonomous vehicle regulations and dealing with the evolving technologies and that there is a chance that a notice of proposed rulemaking for vehicle-to-vehicle communications will be issued later this year or in 2018.