IN an appearance at the NATM Convention, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) administrator David Strickland lauded the NATM Compliance Verification Program, which helps ensure that a company's manufacturing processes are producing trailers meeting federal safety regulations and industry standards.
“We do work with a lot of partners around the country and the world,” he said, “and there are very few times where they actually have an aggressive organization and membership that makes the hard decision to have a mandatory compliance program. In the short term, this decision may cost you money or may cost you energy or will increase conflict. But in the long term, an organization has made a decision for the safety of the driving public, for the benefit of your association, and for the health and welfare of the people who buy your trailers every single day.
“I work with a lot of associations. I'd say that with your friends in auto associations, you don't really see that type of camaraderie. It does speak to the fantastic leadership and commitment you have to safety every single day.”
Strickland said NHTSA continues to wage a battle for safety as it tries to regulate 256 million vehicles on US roads, including issues ranging from FMVSS to fuel economy to behavior programs.
He said that there were 32,367 highway deaths in 2011, marking the lowest level since 1949 and a 1.9% decrease from the previous year. Since 2005, there has been a 26% decline in traffic fatalities.
He said 32,367 is still “abysmally huge,” but he said he is encouraged by the reduction that has been achieved partly through partnerships with original equipment manufacturers and associations like NATM.
“That's a huge accomplishment. It takes a lot of great engineering science, following the data, and partnerships around the country,” he said. “I'm just asking all of you to continue that commitment. The great advantage is creating trust in the public. The secondary advantage is that you are fulfilling a business base where you have great products to sell to folks. If you take care of your own house, you have less of an opportunity of having other people take care of your house for you. I'll include myself in that particular equation. Being proactive and thoughtful in your approach speaks to your commitment, and has advantages.”
He said there are a few issues that are of particular interest to NATM members:
Fuel economy standards. “There are two sets: the 2012 through 2016 standards, which are currently under way, and our work in establishing 2017 through 2025 standards. We worked hand-in-glove with the Environmental Protection Agency to promulgate the standards. It is really the first time we've had compartmentalized national fuel economy standards to address both fuel economy, which is NHTSA's jurisdiction, and greenhouse-gas emissions, which is EPA's jurisdiction.
“We established the joint rules in October 2012 for these standards to apply to a whole gamut of small vehicles up to 10,000 GVW, which is everything from sub-compact vehicles all way to the largest pickup trucks and SUVs. That particular segment of the light-duty truck category is clearly an area of interest for every NATM member because those are vehicles that tow your trailers. The success and vitality of this particular segment correlates directly to the ability, health, and vitality of your members.
“Everybody has huge benefits and gains. Regardless of where you are in terms of the business proposition, everybody in this room is in a passenger car at some stage, and those particular standards and improvements in fuel economy are going to provide benefits. We also think about what it means. The standards going all the way to 2025 will virtually double fuel economy in the fleet, with an average of 54.5 mpg.
“The goal was to make every vehicle better and more efficient, and we've accomplished that. We wanted to make sure we didn't have an impact on towing capacity and other attributes so people could do every day what they do with their vehicles, whether it's recreational or business, and frankly even being able to haul heavier light-duty loads in the future in a more efficient and economical way.
“We accomplished this through a number of engineering decisions in addition to the fact that light-duty trucks, pickups and SUVs actually will be increasing fuel economy at a slower rate in the first part of the standard between 2017 and 2025 so that technology can catch up. We want to make sure you do not have a situation where fewer vehicles are available to people in the future.
“The bottom line is, fuel economy is important for all of us. The advantages are huge. We're talking about huge benefits to everyone but those benefits can't be at the cost of losing vehicle choice. While we were looking to make as aggressive set of standards as possible, we wanted to make sure they were economically and technologically feasible.”
Tire safety. “We did a number of studies on tire aging. We will issue a report. We have seen that there may be an impact of the age of the tire, regardless of tread depth, which may be especially applicable to folks in this room where you have folks who may have trailers they've used only a few times a year and may have tires that are very old that have more than adequate tread. I know my folks have been reaching out to the leadership in this room. Our hope is to avoid tragedies we have seen where you have tire failures.”
Vehicle safety. “We have a project we have called connected vehicle technology, which is basically cars talking to other cars for safety purposes. We have a 3000-car pilot in Ann Arbor. Our research has shown that with this vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology fully implemented, it can address up to 80% of crash scenarios involving non-impaired drivers. So we see the opportunity to drive down the number of 33,000 we see today. This year, we're going to make a decision on rulemaking on whether we should have this communication system on every new vehicle.”