Federal agencies propose mandating automatic emergency braking

Updated Jun 26, 2023
Screen capture from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety video
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration today announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would require heavy vehicles to have automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems the two agencies say will mitigate the frequency and severity of rear-end crashes.

“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 American Trucking Associations added its approval.

“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.

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

A statement from NHTSA and FMCSA explained how AEB work:

An AEB system uses multiple sensor technologies that work together to detect a vehicle in a crash imminent situation. 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 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.

“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.”

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

NHTSA and FMCSA said they incorporated feedback from the safety advocacy community, industry representatives and other interested parties to address this critical safety need on America’s roads. The proposed rule, which fulfills a mandate under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, defines “heavy vehicles” as those having a gross vehicle weight greater than 10,000 pounds, such as heavy-duty trucks and buses. 

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The notice of proposed rulemaking requires all of the AEB requirements be phased in within four years of publication of a final rule. Truck tractors and certain large buses with a GVWR of greater than 26,000 pounds that are currently subject to FMVSS No. 136 would be required to meet all requirements within three years. Vehicles not currently subject to FMVSS No. 136 would be required to have ESC and AEB systems within four years of the publication of a final rule. Small-volume manufacturers, final-stage manufacturers, and alterers would be allowed one additional year (five years total) of lead time.

Public comments on the proposed rule will be accepted for 60 days. 

You can read the entire proposed rule here.