Feds Move to Require AEBs for Heavy Trucks

NHTSA, FMCSA Plan Would Also Mandate Electronic Stability Control
A large truck
The proposal seeks public comment for 60 days. (phaisarn2517/Getty Images)

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have announced a joint proposed rule that would require heavy trucks to have automatic emergency braking systems aimed at mitigating the frequency and severity of rear-end crashes.

The proposal, issued June 22 in response to petitions granted in 2015 to several safety groups and a congressional mandate under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also would require that vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds have an electronic stability control system to work in unison with the AEB system.

The proposal would be effective either three or four years after the rulemaking becomes final, depending on the stability control system deployment timeline. The electronic stability control system provision would need to meet equipment requirements, general system operational capability requirements, and malfunction detection requirements.

An AEB system uses multiple sensor technologies that work together to detect a vehicle in a crash-imminent situation, the announcement said.

“The system automatically applies the brakes if the driver has not done so, or, if needed, applies more braking force to supplement the driver’s braking,” the proposal said. “The proposed standard would require the technology to work at speeds ranging between low-speed (6 miles per hour) and high-speed (roughly 50 miles per hour) situations.”

Ann Carlson


“Advanced driver assistance systems like AEB have the power to save lives,” said NHTSA Chief Counsel Ann Carlson. “Today’s announcement is an important step forward in improving safety on our nation’s roadways by reducing, and ultimately eliminating, preventable tragedies that harm Americans.”

The proposal seeks public comment for 60 days.

“Establishing AEB standards is a key component of the Department’s National Roadway Safety Strategy,” said FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson. “This technology can enhance the effectiveness of commercial motor vehicle crash reduction strategies and reduce roadway fatalities.”

The announcement was welcomed by American Trucking Associations.

“ATA has long supported the use of AEB on all new vehicles,” said ATA Vice President of Safety Policy Dan Horvath. “With NHTSA’s recent regulation requiring AEB on all new passenger vehicles, this proposal for heavy duty trucks is timely and appropriate.

Dan Horvath


“The trucking industry supports the use of proven safety technology like automatic emergency braking,” Horvath said. “We look forward to reviewing this proposal from NHTSA and FMCSA and working with them as it is implemented.”

According to NHTSA statistics, there are approximately 60,000 rear-end crashes a year in which the heavy vehicle is the striking vehicle. Once implemented, NHTSA estimates the proposed rule will prevent 19,118 crashes, save 155 lives, and prevent 8,814 injuries annually.

Specifically, NHTSA proposes a two-tiered phase-in schedule for meeting the proposed standard.

For vehicles currently subject to FMVSS No. 136, “Electronic stability control systems for heavy vehicles,” any vehicle manufactured on or after the first Sept. 1, that is three years after the date of publication of the final rule would be required to meet the proposed heavy vehicle AEB standard.

“For vehicles not currently subject to FMVSS No. 136, any vehicle manufactured on or after the first September 1 that is four years after the date of publication of the final rule would be required to meet the proposed AEB requirements and the proposed amendments to the ESC requirements,” the 254-page proposed rule said.

NHTSA said it has, and is currently conducting, research to study drivers’ experiences with collision mitigation technologies, including AEB.

The proposal said that NHTSA believes that AEB will help reduce the severity of rear-end crashes occurring in a wide variety of real-world situations.

“However, the data analysis presented some rear-end crash cases where, due to a significant sequence of events or other conditions preceding the crash, the agency had less certainty of the extent to which AEB systems would be able to reduce the crash severity,” the proposal said. “For example, if the data indicated that the heavy vehicle had changed lanes just prior to colliding with a vehicle ahead, there would potentially not have been sufficient time and/or space for the AEB system to properly identify and track that vehicle and brake in time to avoid the crash.”

A 2016 NHTSA study found that crash avoidance systems can be effective in collision avoidance. Driver performance and behavior exhibited almost no changes over time, and there was limited frustration with the AEB activations.

The National Transportation Safety Board included AEB for commercial vehicles in its 2021-2023 “Most Wanted List.”

Among other things, NTSB stated that NHTSA should complete standards for AEB in commercial vehicles and require this technology in all highway vehicles and all new school buses.

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Several safety groups have said they support an AEB rule, including the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

“Equipping all trucks with AEB, including those driving around our neighborhoods, where children are playing or biking to school and people are walking their dogs, to drop off e-commerce packages and conduct other services is essential to saving lives,” the group said in a statement.

“The Truckload Carriers will always support the use of on-board technologies that improve vehicle safety and driver performance, and this rule is certainly something that we have been expecting,” said David Heller, TCA’s senior vice president of Safety and Government Affairs.