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UMTRI study: Technology could reduce truck rollovers

August 8, 2010

Stability control systems could save lives by preventing thousands of rollover accidents every year if all existing tractor-semitrailers operating on U.S. roads were fitted with the technology, according to an UMTRI study.

The study, Safety Benefits of Stability Control Systems for Tractor-Semitrailers, was conducted by UMTRI under a cooperative agreement between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Meritor WABCO to examine the performance of electronic stability control (ESC) systems, and roll stability control (RSC) systems for heavy-truck tractor-semitrailers.

"It's just a really powerful technology," said study coauthor John Woodrooffe in an August 4 article by the Associated Press (AP). Woodrooffe heads UMTRI's Vehicle Safety Analytics Group. Other coauthors on the study are Daniel Blower, Timothy Gordon, Paul E. Green, Brad Liu, and Peter Sweatman.

The October 2009 UMTRI study was based on the analysis of independent crash datasets using engineering and statistical techniques to estimate the probable safety benefits of stability control technologies for five-axle tractor-semitrailer vehicles.

Because deployment of the stability technologies for large trucks has only occurred recently, national crash databases do not yet have a sufficient amount of data on the performance of these technologies. Employing a novel approach to examine the potential benefits of these systems, UMTRI researchers used national crash databases to select crash scenarios that could likely benefit from the technologies and estimated the probable effectiveness of each. The analysis was based on probable outcome estimates from hardware-in-the-loop simulation, field test experience, expert panel assessment, and fleet crash data.

Findings of the study indicate that stability control systems provide substantial safety benefits for tractor-semitrailers. If all five-axle tractor-semitrailers operating on U.S. roads were fitted with RSC, the technology could reduce the number of rollover crashes by 3,489 and save an estimated 106 lives. Alternatively, if all five-axle tractor-semitrailers operating on U.S. roads were fitted with ESC, the technology could reduce the number of rollover crashes by 4,659 and save an estimated 126 lives.

According to the AP article, NHTSA hopes to complete studies on the potential benefits of requiring the systems for tractor-trailer trucks before the end of the year.

To read the AP article, see NHTSA: New Technology Can Prevent Truck Rollovers

To read the full UMTRI report, see Safety Benefits of Stability Control Systems for Tractor-Semitrailers