Some Legislators Want Automatic Brakes on Big Rigs

More legislators across the US are demanding that tractor trailers be equipped with automatic braking systems to prevent fatal crashes. US Representative Hank Johnson (R-GA) recently introduced the Safe Roads Act of 2015. If it passes, it would mandate that all big rigs have automatic braking systems.


Johnson thinks that such technology could have saved the lives of five Georgia Southern University students who were killed by an out of control truck in April.

The legislation is being contested by the trucking industry. Sean McNally from the American Trucking Associations does not believe that Washington DC should force unproven technology on truck drivers.

He noted that while ATA does support the voluntary adoption of many safety technologies, his organization does not want to see a government mandate. It also wants to see more real world data before automatic braking is added to the existing fleet.

Still, there is growing evidence that the technology could prevent crashes. A study found that automatic braking, also called a forward collision warning system, could prevent 30,000 crashes annually.

Such technology could, in theory, prevent a crash when a truck driver – who is fatigued or otherwise distracted – comes upon stopped traffic suddenly. The system could automatically brake if the driver doesn’t react quickly enough.

Our trucking accident law firm strongly supports new laws that could prevent negligent truck drivers from killing innocent people. We have seen far too many accidents that led to devastating consequences for our clients where truck drivers were distracted by fatigue, the radio or cell phones, which led to them not braking in time and killing innocent people.

The size and weight of a truck going at highway speed leads to carnage in accidents with cars. Professional truck drivers have a higher obligation to all of us to drive safely. It seems eminently reasonable for trucks to be equipped with automatic braking systems as soon as it is feasible to do so.

In the railroad industry, Congress has mandated similar technology for freight and passenger railroads (called positive train control) and the Association of American Railroads has been lobbying for delayed implementation ever since the enactment.
There is no question that this technology will save lives, but the ATA opposes it in part, because it would of course require increased safety expenditures.