A different way of seeing things

Camera monitoring system allowed in lieu of rearview mirrors.

March-April 2020

Mark Schremmer

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The FMCSA has granted an exemption request from Vision Systems North America to allow motor carriers to operate with the company’s camera monitoring system as an alternative to the two side rearview mirrors required by federal regulations.

“The agency has determined that granting the exemption to allow use of the Smart-Vision system in lieu of mirrors would likely achieve a level of safety equivalent to or greater than the level of safety provided by the regulation,” FMCSA wrote.

Vision Systems was granted a limited five-year exemption. FMCSA’s decision to approve the exemption was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 15.

The company submitted its application for exemption on Sept. 26, saying that its technology “presents a clear, high-definition image to the driver by means of a monitor firmly mounted to each A-pillar of the commercial motor vehicle, the structural member between the windshield and the door of the cab.” Vision Systems contends that its cameras actually increase a driver’s field of view when compared to conventional mirrors. In addition, the company touted increased image quality, a “fail-safe” design, and reduced driver fatigue because its system results in less lateral head and eye movement.

Comments

FMCSA received five comments on the exemption request, including comments from the American Bus Association and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. The ABA favored the exemption, saying such camera-based visibility systems should be deployed to improve the safety of commercial motor vehicle operations.

CVSA said it recognized the potential safety benefits but cautioned that exemptions from safety regulations have the potential to undermine consistency and uniformity in compliance enforcement.

Three individuals commented in support of the exemption request.

Reasoning for decision

In its explanation for approving the exemption, FMCSA noted the company’s “fail-safe” system that will allow other camera images to continue to be displayed if one camera fails. Additionally, FMCSA said it is the driver’s responsibility to not operate an unsafe vehicle.

“Section 396.7 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations … prohibits any vehicle from being operated in such a condition as to likely cause an accident or breakdown of the vehicle,” FMCSA wrote. “Section 392.7(a) requires each commercial motor vehicle driver to satisfy himself/herself that a vehicle is in safe condition before operating the vehicle, which would include ensuring that the rear-vision mirrors are in good working order.

“If the Smart-Vision system fails during operation, the driver must complete a driver vehicle inspection report at the completion of the work day as required by 396.11 of the (regulations), and the motor carrier must ensure that the defect is corrected.”

Growing trend

This exemption, which will remain in effect until Jan. 15, 2025, is limited to Vision Systems’ Smart-Vision system. Last year, FMCSA granted a similar exemption to Stoneridge Inc.

The move toward using camera systems in lieu of rearview mirrors appears to be gaining interest. In October, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking asking the public to comment on whether or not the agency should allow camera-based rear visibility systems as an alternative to inside and outside rearview mirrors. The notice received nearly 600 comments to the docket. The comment period ended Dec. 9, and a notice of proposed rulemaking could follow. LL

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and nearly two decades of journalism experience to our staff.