As we previously reported, the bad news about trucker safety is that a US Senate panel has proposed suspending a new Department of Transportation regulation that requires truckers to get more rest before driving.
The good news is that new safety measures are being discussed that could reduce the number of semi-truck accidents.
But, the not-so-good news is that safety measures available today, which add only 1% to 2% to the cost of a big rig, won’t be required for six more years.
According to an article in the New York Times, safety systems originally designed for cars are increasingly being adapted for trucks.
Freight carriers are adding electronic safety devices to their fleets — like systems that can slow a truck down when a vehicle ahead of it reduces speed.
According to a spokesman for a heavy-truck component supplier, 15% of new heavy-duty trucks are ordered with a collision avoidance system. This uses a front-mounted radar system to sense the risk of a potential crash. Then the system throttles back the truck’s engine, activates the engine brake, and applies the wheel brake if the driver fails to respond to multiple warnings.
Trucking Accident Attorney: What’s Being Done
About 50,000 of the largest trucks, which are called Class 8 trucks, are equipped with Meritor Wabco’s OnGuard collision safety system, introduced in 2008.
However, this is only about 2.2% of the total US highway trucking fleet.
More widely used safety devices include electronic stability controls. These systems use sensors to measure the truck’s speed, tilt, and direction of travel. This then determines when it’s going out of control and risks overturning. The systems then apply the brakes to bring the truck back under control.
About half of all new trucks are ordered with these stability controls, which are usually extra-cost options. But at least one company – Volvo – is making stability controls standard on all of its large trucks.
Volvo trucks also have other safety features such as adaptive cruise control. This maintains a set distance to the vehicle ahead. Active braking responds to potential collisions ahead by applying the brakes. And a lane departure warning uses a camera. This reads lane markings and alert the driver if the lane change appears to be a mistake. Consequently, if the driver crosses a line without using a turn signal, then the system will issue an alert.
The lane-change alerts have the added safety benefit of “training” truck drivers to signal their lane changes. Further, some of these safety technologies are expected to be required by federal law to be used in heavy trucks by the year 2020.
A 2013 report by federal regulators concluded that the universal use of the available collision avoidance technology would have reduced:
- Rear-end crashes by 16%
- Fatal crashes by 24%
- Injuries by 25%
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