A Fayetteville company with a product designed to reduce tractor-trailer accidents has hit a regulatory speed bump.
Earlier this month, Intellistop Inc. was denied an exemption from a 1960s-era Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rule that requires brake lights to remain “steady-burning.”
Intellistop asked for the exemption for its motor carrier clients who wanted to buy and install its product, but feared FMCSA sanctions if they did.
Intellistop created and sells a product that attaches to the wiring harness in the nose box of a semi-trailer. When the driver uses the brakes, instead of the lights staying solid, the device drops the voltage down and then back up to its normal voltage, Michelle Hanby, CEO of Intellistop, told Arkansas Business last week.
“That gets the attention of the drivers to look up, to realize that the tractor is either slowing down or stopping,” she said. “So each time the driver applies the brakes, you have that quick, four pulses and it goes back to solid until they redo the brakes.”
Studies show that flashing brake lamps reduce rear-end collisions, she said. “And so that is our goal,” she said.
The company applied for the exemption in December 2020. And when it didn’t receive an answer after more than 560 days, it filed a lawsuit asking the FMCSA to make a decision.
On Oct. 7, the federal agency denied the application. Intellistop has appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Intellistop is represented by Stephen Obermeier of Wiley Rein LLP of Washington.
Casen Ross, an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice who is representing the FMCSA, didn’t return a call for comment.
In court filings, Intellistop said that government and private studies have shown that drivers who see pulsating lights are more likely to brake compared with those viewing conventional brake-level signals.
And Hanby said that the FMCSA has granted four exemptions to its steady-burning rule for brake-activated pulsating lamps.
“A lot of the larger fleets are very, very interested” in installing Intellistop’s system once the exemption is granted, she said.
Hanby said in court filings that one company had planned a 70,000-unit purchase of Intellistop’s product, but wound up using a competitor after the FMCSA failed to make a ruling.
She said the agency’s delay in approving the exemption cost Intellistop at least $6.9 million in lost revenue.
But some trucking fleets have moved forward and installed Intellistop’s device, she said. “The risk/reward for reducing regulations is more important [to those trucking companies] than the minor risk of getting a lighting violation,” Hanby said.
The price of the device depends on how many a fleet orders, but the most a company would pay is $159 per truck. It takes about five minutes to install.
Intellistop uses RCAL Products Inc. of Prairie Grove for manufacturing and Orlof’s Branding & Consulting of Trinity, North Carolina, for its web design and marketing.
Hanby has been a champion of motor vehicle safety for years.
In 2013, Hanby incorporated her first company, Brake Plus NWA Inc. of Fayetteville, which sells rear-end collision deterrent systems.
In 2020, she incorporated Intellistop, which has three employees.
“For me, these companies are more than a way to make money,” she said in a declaration included in the lawsuit. “Their mission is close to my heart because my mother was killed by a distracted driver. She is the reason I pursue vehicle safety.”