Accident-prevention technologies bring visibility, control
The most minor of accidents involving one of your drivers still can cause great financial pain – even if it wasn’t your driver’s fault. Property damage, injuries, legal fees and other incidentals often will exceed the cost for technology that might have prevented the accident. But spending limited capital on technology without a clear timetable for a return on investment can seem like a financial gamble.
The investment becomes less risky when considering the accidents that may happen down the road, such as a tractor collision with a passenger vehicle: 75 percent of large truck fatalities result from collisions with moving vehicles, and 60 percent of fatalities include an initial frontal impact, according to 2009 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data.
Technologies that can help prevent accidents generally fall into three categories: safety systems that give audible or visual warnings to drivers to increase reaction time; active systems that automatically engage the vehicle brakes when a crash is imminent; and those that capture information about risky driving behaviors.
These first two technologies could have a significant impact on the 81 percent of critical safety events that involve some type of driver distraction, according to a 2009 FMCSA study. They also can increase driver reaction time: A study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found that 90 percent of rear-end accidents could be prevented if the driver recognized the situation one second earlier.
As for the third technology, a recent analysis from DriveCam, a provider of driver risk management systems, compared drivers involved in one or more collisions with drivers who have not had a collision. The first group is 6.5 times more likely to exhibit aggressive driving and more than two times as likely to be drowsy or demonstrate judgment error. Technology that can change driving behavior has a high likelihood for return on investment.
Increasingly, fleets are looking to maximize return on investment through product integration and by using multiple systems together to manage risk. While each system is different, they all bring real-time visibility and control over situations that otherwise would be left to chance.
All truck manufacturers now offer active safety systems from one or more suppliers such as Meritor Wabco and Bendix.
Meritor Wabco offers a stability control system as well as OnGuard, an active radar-based forward-collision safety system that scans the environment and gives drivers a basic warning alert of stationary or slower-moving objects in their path of travel. OnGuard automatically will engage the vehicle’s brakes when a collision is imminent regardless of driver activity and whether cruise control is engaged or not.
Meritor Wabco is seeing increased demand for integrated safety systems that can provide both active controls and driver alerts. “Our current strategy is to develop things like lane-departure warning systems that allow features such as drowsy driver and video capture to work in conjunction with OnGuard,” says Mark Melletat, director of field operations.
Bendix offers an active electronic stability system and the Bendix Wingman Advanced collision mitigation system. The company also offers alert-only systems: AutoVue for lane departures and Vorad for blind-spot detection and forward collision. Bendix acquired AutoVue from Iteris and Vorad from Eaton.
While Bendix plans to continue offering both its active and alert safety systems separately, its product roadmap includes integration among systems that will prioritize alerts, says T.J. Thomas, director of marketing and customer solutions for the Bendix Controls Group. Suppose a truck is equipped with both lane departure and collision warning systems, and a driver has to swerve into another lane to avoid a rear-end collision; the driver would receive an alert from the collision warning system – the highest priority – but not from the lane-departure warning system.
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