Bill proposed to enforce auto brakes on big rigs - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Bill proposed to enforce auto brakes on big rigs

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

After several deadly crashes involving tractor-trailers on Interstate 16, one Georgia Congressman is taking matters into his own hands, proposing a bill to Congress to require trucks to have automatic braking systems.

There is actually some really sophisticated technology out there that could help save lives. WTOC read over the legislation that has been drafted, and while it seems like a no-brainer, it may be tough to get it passed.

Automakers like Volvo are already manufacturing what they call the "future truck.” It has sensors designed to alert drivers when they are too close to another car. If the driver doesn't break, the automatic system starts to take over.

In a Volvo Trucks produced YouTube video, it narrates, “If there's no reaction from the driver, the truck's brakes are applied with a low braking force. Finally, if no braking force is detected from the driver, an emergency full braking is performed.”

Congressman Hank Johnson, a representative out of Atlanta, introduced a bill last week that would require all new tractor trailers to have this technology. This comes after five Georgia Southern nursing students were killed in April on I-16, and then five more people were killed a month later. Both crashes involved tractor-trailers smashing into the cars in front of them.

"There's no way - if you stop on a dime - that I can save your life,” said Glen Clementi, truck driver.

It's a terrifying reality for truck drives like Glen Clementi, but when WTOC showed him how this new technology worked, he was shocked, saying “Wow.”

He says right now, it takes about the length of a football field to come to a complete stop - five or six seconds that literally could be the difference of life and death.

"Better trucks with better brakes would be great,” said Clementi.

But, others are not so sure.

"There's no way you’re going to stop 80,000 pounds on a dime,” said Shannon Bowman, truck driver.

Automakers claim the video represents a truck carrying up to 40 tons, but he wasn't convinced, even after seeing the video.

It's unclear what the future holds for this bill as it moves through committees, and while representatives in our area, like Congressman Buddy Carter, recognize something needs to be done, getting Congress to mandate this safety feature may be tough.

"We have a Republican-controlled Congress, and there are a lot of people who don't want to force people to do things,” said Congressman Buddy Carter.

Initially, lawmakers tried to get the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to establish this type of safety mandate, but when they didn't get anywhere, they decided to draft this bill.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in 2011, there were 130,000 crashes involving commercial motor vehicles. Of those crashes, 4,000 people died and 80,000 others were injured.

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