The U.S. Department of Transportation has released new standards that mandate a virtual doubling of the current roof crush-resistance capability on light vehicles. In addition to that ruling, DOT also issued its first-ever regulations in this critical arena covering larger, heavier trucks and SUVs. Currently, the roof on a passenger car with up to a 6,000-pound GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) must be able to withstand a pressure of 1.5 times the vehicle's weight on both the driver's and passenger's side of the roof structure in the event of a rollover. Under DOT's new dictums, which begin phasing in September 2012 and must be fully enacted by the 2017 model year, that figure will double to 3.0 times the vehicle's GVWR. Of equal importance, the DOT ruling also extends its scope to cover all passenger vehicles with a GVWR in the 6,000-10,000-pound range. Starting in September 2016, these heretofore-unregulated vehicles will be required to meet the current 1.5-times GVWR standards.
In making the announcement, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood noted that "Rollovers are the deadliest crashes on our highways and today's rule will help occupants survive these horrific events." However, he also stressed the critical role seatbelts play in mitigating the effect of rollover accidents that now claim over 10,000 lives annually. One other key to decreasing these fatalities is to prevent rollovers from ever occurring. To that end, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently phasing in its requirements that all passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. be fitted with standard stability control systems by the 2012 model year.