Government nears surge-break approval

WASHINGTON – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has taken a significant step toward granting a petition to allow commercial drivers to tow trailers equipped with surge brakes, the National Marine Manufacturers Association said in a release yesterday. The petition was filed two years ago by a coalition that includes NMMA.

Annette M. Sandberg, administrator of the FMCSA, said her agency "has decided to grant the petition" filed by The Surge Brake Coalition.

"The results of the brake test commissioned by the coalition suggest that commercial motor vehicle combinations which include smaller trailers equipped with surge brakes are able to comply with this agency's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards," Sandberg wrote in the FMCSA finding.

FMCSA soon will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to allow surge brakes on trailers with gross vehicle weight ratings of 20,000 pounds or less under the conditions included in the petition, NMMA said.

If given final FMCSA approval, the rule change would give states the green light to allow boat dealers and others to tow recreational boat trailers equipped with surge brakes. Surge brakes are preferable to electronic brakes because they are less likely to fail under wet conditions, are less expensive and are standard equipment on most recreational marine trailers.

"Our testing proved that surge brakes were equally safe as electronic brakes," said Monita W. Fontaine, NMMA vice president of government affairs. "This new rule will bring welcome relief to boat dealers, whose employees faced significant fines and points on their driver's license if they were ticketed for towing a trailer equipped with surge brakes."

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