Proposal for Automatic Braking in Heavy Vehicles Has Implications for Small Businesses


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The new proposal mandates that heavy vehicles must be equipped with automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems. Introducing such systems aims to lessen the occurrence and impact of rear-end crashes.

The NHTSA Chief Counsel, Ann Carlson, is hopeful about the life-saving potential of these advanced driver assistance systems, stating, “Advanced driver assistance systems like AEB have the power to save lives. 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.”

An AEB system uses multiple sensor technologies to identify an imminent crash situation. It automatically applies the brakes if the driver fails to do so or increases braking force if necessary. The proposed standard stipulates the technology’s functionality across different speeds, from low (6 miles per hour) to high (roughly 50 miles per hour).

For small businesses that rely on heavy-duty vehicles, these new rules could imply additional upfront costs but promise to enhance safety in the long term significantly. For companies in sectors like freight transportation, courier services, and passenger transit, introducing AEB could reduce liability costs related to accidents, improve driver safety, and enhance public perception of their commitment to safety.

The FMCSA Administrator, Robin Hutcheson, notes the technology’s critical role in the Department’s National Roadway Safety Strategy, stating, “This technology can enhance the effectiveness of commercial motor vehicle crash reduction strategies and reduce roadway fatalities.”

According to NHTSA’s statistics, approximately 60,000 rear-end crashes per year involve a heavy vehicle as the striking vehicle. Implementing the proposed rule could prevent 19,118 crashes, save 155 lives, and avert 8,814 injuries annually, NHTSA estimates.

The NHTSA and FMCSA developed the proposed rule after receiving feedback from the safety advocacy community, industry representatives, and other stakeholders. The rule is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law mandate and categorizes “heavy vehicles” as those with a gross vehicle weight over 10,000 pounds, including heavy-duty trucks and buses.

This new proposal builds on a rule proposed by the NHTSA, which would require AEB systems in passenger vehicles and light trucks. In January 2022, the DOT released the National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS), a comprehensive plan to combat the national crisis in motor vehicle fatalities and severe injuries.

Small business owners in the transportation sector should be prepared for these changes, representing the next step in the Department of Transportation’s efforts to improve road safety. By embracing these advancements, small businesses can show a commitment to safety, potentially improving customer trust and business reputation.

Image: NHTSA

Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 16 years. A professional journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional media and online media, he attended Waynesburg University and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He has held roles of reporter, editor and publisher, having founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press.