Call to adopt new US brake safety light technology

Encouraged by early results in the US, Queensland Trucking Association CEO Gary Mahon is lobbying for authorities here to adopt the same enhanced rear lighting and signalling systems.

Operators in the US have been quick to embrace the recent exemption ruling by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that now allows motor carriers operating trailers and van body trucks to install amber brake-activated pulsating warning lamps on the rear of the trailers and trucks.

Mahon said that given Australia’s proven responsiveness to practical safety improvements he sees no reason why the braking systems wouldn’t also catch on here and has written to state and federal ministers to push his case.

“The purpose of these additional lights is to flash – like emergency trafficators – whenever the driver applies the brakes,” said Mahon, who has followed the US National Heavy Traffic Safety Administration’s 10-year study into the light system closely for the last few years.

“I think it is just a wonderful solution to give considerably longer line of sight to heavy vehicles slowing down.”

He said there has been too many rear-end crashes involving trucks in recent times in which poor visibility has played a factor.

With the annual road toll also not trending in the right direction, Mahon believes it’s imperative that we look for any opportunities that would offer systematic safety improvements.

“Too much of our thinking in the road safety space has got too much orthodoxy around it,” he said.

“We need to think a bit differently and not necessarily always adopt what the Europe industry does.

“I just think it has tremendous potential and particularly the opportunity for the industry to respond in a more voluntary way.

“I think a lot of industry people would pick it up quite quickly if they were issued the permit.”

Based on the impressive US results, Mahon said there’s no reason why the industry couldn’t be given approval to use the lights at the next transport ministers’ meeting in April.

He said the lights are a practical, common-sense solution which can be installed at a low cost.

“I can’t see why they couldn’t get the green light there and the NHVR issue a permit.

“It’s not hard. It’s about having the will and desire – the mechanisms are there.”

When Oklahoma-based hazmat hauler Groendyke Transportation received an exemption from the FMCSA to mount the US$150 lights on the back of 632 of its tanker trucks, in two-and-half-years the company saw a 33.7 percent drop in rear-end crashes along with the elimination of all railroad crossing rear-end accidents.

“The driver feedback has all been positive,” said senior director of equipment and procurement Brian Gigoux when contacted by Big Rigs.

“We received several inquiries from both fleets and OEM’s shortly after the exemption was granted and published.

“Recently, we’ve received word that an exemption for vans is already being lobbied. 

“As far as field observations go, I’ve had a few vendors remark that they see our strobes in action while travelling and feel they’re an attention-getter and commended our efforts.

“Overall, the experience has been very positive.”

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