Study reveals benefits from safety technologies in commercial trucks

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Updated Sep 10, 2010

Con Way Freight

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and Con-way Freight on Thursday, Sept. 9, announced the results of a yearlong field test of an integrated system of crash warning technologies designed to enhance the safety of commercial trucks.

The results were made available in a newly issued report “The Integrated Vehicle-Based Safety Systems Heavy-Truck Field Operational Test, Key Findings Report (DOT HS 811 362).” Program funding was provided by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Con-way Freight supported the study by providing 10 Class 8 commercial freight tractors that were equipped with the Integrated Vehicle-Based Safety System technology. Over the course of the 10-month study that began in February 2009, 18 Con-way Freight drivers operated the trucks out of the company’s Detroit service center as part of its normal business operations, logging 601,844 miles and 22,724 trips while generating 13,678 hours of data. While the test vehicles were driven, data acquisition systems recorded driver actions and responses to the integrated warning system. UMTRI researchers then analyzed the data to study the effect that the integrated warning system had on driver acceptance and changes in driver behavior.

Among the study’s key findings:
• The majority of drivers perceived that the integrated crash warning system would increase driver safety, and it made them more aware of the traffic environment around their vehicle and their position in the lane;
• Seven drivers reported the integrated system prevented them from potentially having a crash;
• Fifteen out of 18 drivers said they prefer a truck equipped with the integrated safety system and would recommend that their employers purchase such a system;
• In terms of satisfaction, drivers rated warnings for lane departures the highest, and second-highest in terms of perceived usefulness;
• The integrated crash warning system had a statistically significant effect helping drivers maintain lane positions closer to the center; and
• Overall, drivers responded more quickly to potential rear-end crash scenarios with the system.

“Partnering with Con-way Freight was a very positive experience for UMTRI,” says Jim Sayer, UMTRI associate research scientist. “It was particularly rewarding to see Con-way Freight make direct use of our research findings and begin equipping their vehicles with similar safety systems.”

Based on its experience with the study, Con-way Freight chose to invest in the new technologies for all new replacement units added to the fleet this year – more than 1,300 Freightliner Cascadia Class 8 tractors representing an investment of some $100 million, says Bob Petrancosta, vice president of safety.

“The insight we gained from the IVBSS study confirmed the feedback we got from our drivers – these technologies are ready for prime time and are effective at helping drivers avoid the most common instances of crashes involving commercial trucks,” Petrancosta says. “Safety is our number-one core value. Investing in these technologies is consistent with that objective and our goal of sharing the road as safely as possible with the motoring public.”

The 1,300 new tractors each were equipped with an integrated suite of “detect, alert and respond” systems that provide for rollover stability, front collision warning with radar-based adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning. The safety technologies for the new tractors, all of which have gone into service, represent a cumulative investment of about $5 million.

On Oct. 20, DOT will present the full results of the report during a one-day public meeting at Eagle Crest Conference Center in Ypsilanti, Mich. For more information or to register for the meeting, go to