A new study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that in a year of driving, 150 trucks equipped with crash avoidance systems drove 3 million miles over 85,000 hours with no rear-end crashes. In 2013 in the United States, 3,964 people were killed and an estimated 95,000 people injured in crashes in which large trucks were involved.
The study found that the front of a truck is generally what causes a fatal crash. Collision avoidance systems use radar or cameras to monitor situations that could result in a crash, notifying drivers through visual and auditory alerts. If the driver does nothing, automatic emergency braking will slow the truck down to avert a crash, or at least reduce the impact speed. As a result of the study, fleet safety managers told the NHTSA that they would recommend the technology.
Safe Drivers and Safe Driving Practices
In Transport Topics, The Newspaper of Trucking and Freight Transportation, Fred Andersky, a Bendix executive, said:
I think what was really great about the test is that they really designed it to be a real-world test. But as we’ve always talked about, collision mitigation doesn’t replace the need for safe drivers and safe-driving practices.
Andersky noted that the study used earlier crash avoidance systems, and that newer versions are more effective. The only negative results of the test were that the technology sometimes delivered false alerts and false interventions, which tended to annoy the drivers. The latest collision avoidance technologies use several features, including:
- Automatic emergency braking (AEB)
- Forward collision warning (FCW) alerts, including impact alerts (IA), following-distance alerts (FDA), and stationary object alerts (SOA)
- Lane departure warnings (LDW)
- Adaptive cruise control (ACC).
Drivers Were Video Recorded
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute designed the tests so that whenever the trucks were moving, there would be continuous videos made of the road in front of the truck and the driver’s face, and activations of crash avoidance systems and vehicle network data.
The study involved 169 drivers from seven U.S motor carriers, driving their regular routes in Class 8 (heavy) tractor trailers. The trucks were fitted with either Meritor Wabco OnGuard or Bendix Wingman Advanced crash avoidance systems, which were new to the market at the time of the study. The companies the drivers worked for varied in size, location, types of materials they haul, and whether they were day trippers, long-haul truckers or slip-seat operations.
NHTSA writes in the study that there are some potential issues about equipping large trucks with safety equipment of the kind used in the testing. For example, owner-operators and small companies that buy used trucks might not have access to the newest technology, which is typically a feature only on new trucks.
In addition, although the radar can do certain things — like read the speed and distance of objects — it can’t do other things, such as recognizing road conditions and other vehicles’ turn signals. Things like roadway debris and environmental conditions can interfere with the radar. Another aspect that could be challenging is that drivers need to trust the system and go along with its safety warnings in order for it to work.