Averting disaster

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Some of the most common types of accidents can be avoided with today’s technology. Here’s a look at some high-tech systems that can save money, equipment … and lives.

Truck rollovers, jackknives and lanemigration, rear-end and blind-spot accidents occur all too frequently, as anyone who watches the morning news knows. But such incidents needn’t be a matter of chance. There are ways of putting the potential for avoiding them within your control.

Be aware of surroundings
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reportedly estimates that 93 ercent of all accidents involve driver error, with the majority of those accidents related to driver inattention. NHTSA research also shows that one extra second of warning could prevent up to 90 percent of rear-end collisions.

Forward- and side-looking collision warning systems by Eaton, Delphi and other suppliers let drivers know when they’re following another vehicle too closely, or if there’s a vehicle in a blind spot before they change lanes. Eaton’s Vorad system uses radar to anticipate rear-end collisions, and can be used with optional adaptive cruise control to reduce vehicle speed if following distance is inadequate.

The system can see vehicles in drivers’ blind spots and warn visually, then audibly with the activation of a turn signal, when another vehicle is occupying the intended lane of
travel. But is it effective?

The only way to tell is by comparing our vehicles that have the system with those that don’t,” says Shawn Ply, director of maintenance for Sunset Logistics, based in Fort Worth. “We’ve had no at-fault accidents on Voradequipped vehicles since we installed
the first systems two years ago.” And while it’s hard to attribute that success only to Vorad, the results are more convincing given that Sunset is a slipseat operation, and the results hardly can be linked to the quality of one group of drivers over another.

Operating mainly in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, Sunset’s drivers spend 80 percent of their time in high-traffic, high-stress environments. “As soon as the Vorad unit goes off, a driver’s foot goes to the brake pedal in a split-second, much the way it would when a radar detector goes off,” Ply says. “The foot goes to the brake first, then the eyes help the driver determine how hard an application to make.”

Some of Sunset’s drivers didn’t like the warnings from the units. “But eventually, they tell us they’re glad the system is on their trucks,” says Ply. “In fact, the audible warning that comes with activating the turn signal in traffic actually encourages turn-signal use.”

Not only can the system help prevent accidents, it also can lessen the severity of accidents that do occur. “Recently, a vehicle ran a stop sign in front of one of our trucks,” Ply says. “The Vorad unit ‘saw’ it before the driver and warned him. He was able to slow the rig from 60 to 30 mph before impact. That could have been a whole lot worse.”

Eaton currently is introducing its next-generation Vorad, the VS-400, which reportedly reduces false alarms and includes new 77-GHz radar, a new driver interface unit. Smart Cruise adaptive cruise control, BlindSpotter side object detection system and a standard collision warning system can be purchased separately or as a package.

The extraction and real-time wireless transfer of data (such as following distance) is available through a subscription to the safety package of Eaton’s Fleet Resource Manager, powered by the @Road Web-based mobile resource management system.

Keep it stable
Loss of control, often resulting in jackknifes or rollovers, can be mitigated by electronic stability control systems currently available.

Much like high-end passenger car systems, the Bendix Electronic Stability Program (ESP) automatically applies brakes at individual wheel ends to restore stability to a truck or combination vehicle that’s losing concontrol or headed for a jackknife on dry or slippery surfaces. It also provides roll stability by engaging brakes on all axles to reduce a vehicle’s speed when it exceeds a roll threshold on dry surfaces. For example, ESP can be triggered by taking an exit ramp too fast or making an emergency lane change at even moderate speeds.

Bendix’s ESP package is built entirely on its ABS (ABS-6 Advanced with ESP) platform and does not involve electronically controlled braking (ECBS, EBS or brake-by-wire). Additional components are added to the ABS, such as yaw and steeringangle sensors, but the system retains familiar components and service procedures. The system now is standard on Mack on-highway vehicles.

Meritor WABCO’s Electronic Stability Control (ESC) combines its Roll Stability Control (RSC) with the added capability of yaw