Another eye on the road

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Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released Large Truck Crash Facts 2006, which provides statistics about fatal, injury and damage-only crashes involving large trucks. The agency also released Large Truck Crash Overview 2006, which looks at large truck crash data by trends, vehicles, drivers and crash environment. Both are available in the “Analysis Results & Reports” section at www.ai.fmcsa.dot.gov.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed a total of $119,500 in fines against Con-Way Freight Inc. for safety violations following an inspection at the company’s Manchester, N.H., service center that followed an Oct. 3, 2007, fatality involving a forklift operator. OSHA found that the employee had not been using the forklift’s seatbelt and the company had not trained him and other forklift operators to follow the manufacturer’s guideline that seatbelts be used during operation. OSHA’s powered industrial truck requirements are available online at this site.

Federal Highway Administration kicked off “National Work Zone Awareness Week” last month by joining the California Department of Transportation in honoring the memory of 170 Caltrans highway workers who died in the line of duty since 1924. There were 1,010 fatalities nationwide in 2006 – up about 50 percent in the last decade. More than 3,000 work zones are expected on U.S. highways by mid-summer.

Radar Safety Technologies, a newly formed safety technology and product company, announced its new organization and website (www.rstglobal.net) during a press conference in Troy, Mich. RST also announced its first safety product for the commercial vehicle market.

RST is drawing on more than 50 years of experience and knowledge to research, design, develop, market and sell the next generation of safety technology products, says Charlie Rashid, the company’s president and chief technical officer. RST will deliver safety technologies and market its product portfolio to several audiences, first to the commercial vehicle market, and later to military, recreational, mining and automotive groups.

“We feel that’s who this safety technology will benefit the most,” says Alan Boyd, vice president of operations, commenting on the company’s decision to first target commercial users.

RST also announced its FrontAlert Collision Alert System, designed to detect hazards in a vehicle’s path and alert the driver of a potential collision. FrontAlert CAS initially will be aimed at the commercial vehicle market and will be available in the second quarter of 2008. FrontAlert CAS uses proprietary GERS technology to calculate the vehicle’s speed and its closing speed with another vehicle in front of it, offering a robust threat/nonthreat alert source, the company says.

A green light indicates the system is active, while a yellow light means an object has been detected, and a red light in tandem with an audible signal tells the driver to use caution; a second red light, along with a faster and louder audible warning, alerts the driver to take action.

The system – which looks out at a distance of 1,000 feet maximum – is designed to work in all elements and look straight ahead only, ignoring guard and bridge railings, among other nonvehicle objects. At speeds below 10 mph, FrontAlert CAS “steps aside,” the company says, allowing the driver to maneuver in tight spaces – such as when parking or approaching a dock – without the alarm activating.

Jeffrey Barylak, RST vice president of marketing, says FrontAlert CAS – which will be offered first as an aftermarket product, and later to OEMs – not only will deliver on the industry’s first easy-to-understand driver interface display, but also will deliver on robust threat and nonthreat alert schemes. “RST is listening to their future commercial vehicle customers and have designed in many additional benefits and features,” he says.


Seatbelt usage among truck drivers hits record level
The number of professional truckers buckling up their seatbelts jumped dramatically in 2007 to a record level of 65 percent, according to the Department of Transportation. The results were the findings of the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted, DOT says. A survey conducted in 2003 found that only 48 percent of truck drivers used seatbelts; in 2006, this figure had improved to 59 percent.

Transportation Secretary Mary Peters credited the increased seatbelt usage in part to the creation of a coalition established by DOT in 2003 with the purpose of increasing seatbelt usage among truck drivers. She also credited a 2007 public service announcement produced by DOT starring NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace for helping to raise seatbelt awareness among truckers.

Safety belt use was observed at a higher rate (69 percent) in states with primary seatbelt laws than states with secondary belt use laws (59 percent). Additionally, company drivers were more likely (67 percent) to regularly wear safety belts than owner-operators (56 percent).


Preventable or not: Doe raises the roof
After getting dizzy watching the money counter on a diesel fuel pump fly by at an indecipherable speed, trucker John Doe climbed into his rig, pulled away from JimBob’s so-called “Discount Fuel Stop” and refocused his attention on the upcoming driving task at hand – maneuvering his tractor-trailer closer to Alfie’s Auto Parts’ freight-delivery door, without crushing any of the employees’ revved-up muscle cars, in preparation for offloading several large cartons of Magic Mike’s Miracle Engine Oil Additive.

After Doe arrived at Alfie’s and began inching closer to the freight door, Bobby Joe Johnson Jr. – one of Alfie’s ever-helpful employees – enthusiastically rushed out to lend a hand. Without Doe realizing it, Johnson excitedly opened the trailer’s swing door to grab a box of the popular oil additive to set aside for his own Ford Mustang hot rod.

A microsecond later, as Doe continued to move his rig forward, his trailer door – with the speed of light – swung fully open and smacked into the corner of Alfie’s roof, generating a black rain of torn shingles and nearly causing Doe to choke on his mouthful of Spicy Ranch Doritos! Oh no!

Since Doe contested a letter from his safety director charging him with a preventable accident for failure to “continually check clearances,” the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee was asked to settle the dispute. NSC quickly ruled in Doe’s favor, noting that he could not have anticipated Johnson’s well-intentioned but witless assault on his equipment.