One of my key takeaways from the Mid-America Trucking Show in March was the ongoing evolution of active safety systems, which continue to add new crash-avoidance and fleet monitoring capabilities.
I left the show wondering if we’ll ever in our lifetime see an uncrashable truck. You won’t hear any OEMs or safety system suppliers use the term ‘uncrashable,’ as none of the systems that exist today can guarantee the elimination of all crashes.
It’s the same reason they don’t use the term crash ‘avoidance’; they prefer ‘collision mitigation’ because at the very least, they should be able to reduce the impact and damage incurred in a collision, if not prevent it altogether. And the last thing you want to do is instill in drivers the thought the vehicle they’re piloting can’t be crashed.
However, even if you took all the active safety systems available on the market today and combined them on a single vehicle, you’d have to work pretty hard to wreck that truck. The most common types of crashes – rollovers and rear-enders – have solutions in the market today that will all but eliminate them.
Electronic stability control intervenes when a rollover is imminent, applying the appropriate brakes to bring the tractor-trailer back under control and to keep the rubber on the road. Similarly, radar-based systems that monitor following distance provide constant reminders to the driver to maintain a safe distance and if necessary, will apply the brakes to prevent a rear-end collision.
A new Overspeed Alert feature added by Bendix to its new Wingman Fusion safety system incorporates a camera that reads roadside speed limit signs and notifies fleet managers when the driver was exceeding the posted limit by 10 mph or more. A total of 20 seconds of video is captured when speeding occurs, providing context for follow-up discussions between the driver and safety manager.
Of course there are still gaps in coverage that these safety systems do not yet address. For example, Overspeed Alert will help address speeding, but will do nothing to warn of drivers who are travelling too fast for conditions, assuming they’re still driving below the posted limit.
And the radar systems used to monitor following distance still don’t have the ability to recognize wildlife – unless such creatures happen to have metallic antlers.
Still, it’s amazing to me how far this technology has advanced in just the past decade or so. And lawmakers are noticing, too. As you can read in this month’s issue, Canada has committed to mandating stability control and the US is expected to publish its own mandate any week now. A discussion is occurring in the US right now about mandating other active safety systems as well.
Now that the technology exists to greatly reduce truck crashes, and to, if not develop an uncrashable truck, at least something close to it, you can expect government to take even greater interest in seeing these technologies deployed. And is that a bad thing?
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies