Truckers Benefit With Forward Collision Avoidance Systems

In a guest post for the Truck Safety Coalition, the president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety offers persuasive reasons for the trucking industry to embrace automated emergency braking (AEB) technology. In the United States, large trucks hit other vehicles more than 30,000 times every year. These collisions injure about 15,000 people and take 300 lives. With the amount of freight transported over the nation's roads expected to increase by more than one-third by 2040, large truck safety systems that mitigate or avoid rear-end collisions will become increasingly important.

When trucking companies assess the feasibility of investing in new safety technologies, they look at many factors. For example, an investment in a new safety system may be partially offset by lower insurance and litigation expenses due to a reduction in the frequency and severity of accidents. However, there's another important benefit -- improved work conditions for the drivers they employ.

Dramatic Accident Reductions

Let's use forward collision avoidance technology as an example. In a 2009 large truck crash causation study, researchers estimated that forward collision avoidance systems with AEB reduce large truck crashes by 23.8 percent. In another study, University of Michigan researchers Woodrooffe and Blower found that next-generation forward collision avoidance and mitigation (FCAM) systems could reduce fatalities in rear-end crashes by 44 percent.

One manufacturer of a forward collision avoidance system claims companies using its technology have seen rear-end collisions decline by 87 percent. It is now possible that the federal government will require FCAM systems on large trucks within a few years.

NHTSA Grants Petition

In 2015, a number of industry and traffic safety organizations petitioned the National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration (NHTSA) to begin a "rulemaking" procedure that could lead to mandated forward collision avoidance systems in the future. The Truck Safety Coalition, Center for Auto Safety and Road Safe America were among the groups petitioning the NHTSA. The federal agency agreed, stating, "the agency agrees with the petitioners that FCAM systems have the potential to save lives by preventing or reducing the severity of rear-end crashes."

A Safer Trucking Experience

For many truckers, it is a nightmare scenario. An alert, attentive trucker, operating a safe rig at posted speed limits, sees traffic suddenly slowing in a construction zone, or in the aftermath of an accident. A combination of even the slightest distraction and slowing traffic may result in an accident.

Researchers assert that a semi tractor-trailer equipped with FCAM is less likely to end up in such an accident. Or, if it does, the technology mitigates the seriousness of the accident. Automated braking systems will typically react quicker than even the most attentive CDL driver.

Newer radar-based FCAM systems operate well even during inclement weather. For example, imagine a trucker navigating the interstate in one of the Great Lakes snow belts in Indiana, Ohio or upstate New York. Suddenly, a snow squall envelopes a fully loaded rig, dropping visibility to near zero. Under these conditions, radar-based FCAM can detect a forward vehicle and automatically brake. Manufacturers assert that such systems are effective in thick fog or heavy rain as well.

Reassurance on the Road

Will the operation of a big rig equipped with automated emergency braking lessen the day-to-day stress on professional CDL drivers? Quite possibly. The knowledge that a semi is equipped with such a system can be most reassuring to the driver. Any technology that significantly reduces the risk of rear-end collisions addresses one of a trucker's common concerns.

Trucking companies may find that the voluntary deployment of systems that autonomously avert collisions or reduce the severity of impact will attract truck drivers to work for them. Given the impressive statistics regarding crash avoidance, a rapid embrace of such technologies may also enhance the overall image of the trucking industry.