Swerve To Avoid High Cost Of Accidents

The best collision avoidance system is a well-trained driver.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) National Crash Facts for 2007, there were 136,438 large trucks involved in non-fatal crashes on the highways of the U.S. In that same year there were 54,961 crashes that proved to be fatal.

This makes for a total of 191,399 accidents involving large trucks. In addition, FMCSA notes that the average cost per truck crash during the years 2001-2003 (the latest years for which figures are available), was approximately $91,112. This accounts for more than $17 trillion lost to fleets through accidents in 2007 alone, to say nothing about the incalculable loss of human life.

Figures such as these should have fleet managers scrambling out the door to purchase the latest collision avoidance systems. However, fleet managers should keep in mind the human part of the accident avoidance equation and how drivers need to interact with those collision avoidance systems.

There are a number of types of collision avoidance systems available today, including:
• Intersection collision warning systems;
• Rear impact warning systems;
• Fatigue warning systems and more.

The most popular systems are:
• Lane departure warning;
• Rollover warning; and
• Forward collision warning systems--which is in turn broken down into adaptive cruise control systems and standard collision warning systems.

Santa Ana, CA-based Iteris Inc. is a provider of lane departure warning systems through its Autoview product. The system includes a camera that is positioned on the windshield of a truck. It looks out in the front of the vehicle at the lane markings on the road and, using a beam, tracks the position of the markings relative to the truck's position.

Should the truck begin to cross over the road markings, to either the left or the right, the system will alert the driver with a loud "rumble strip" sound in the left or right speakers positioned in the cab. Based on where the auditory cue is coming from, the driver will make an adjustment to his course.

"We've surveyed hundreds of drivers and they say it makes them safer drivers and also helps reduce accidents," notes Francis Memole, senior vice president of vehicle sensors for Iteris. "Ninety percent of them like the system, which is pretty phenomenal."

"The lane departure system is a great product, our drivers love it," agrees Don Lacy, safety director for Prime Inc., a Springfield, MO-based carrier. The company maintains a huge fleet of 3,200 power units and hauls refrigerated, flatbed and tanker trailers. "The equipment it's installed on has a much better safety record in the area of 'run off the road' type accidents, especially rollovers."

Ryder Systems Inc., Miami, has a pilot program in place with the lane departure warning systems as well.

"We have 50 units installed for the pilot and it really does work," says Tony Montalbano, group director of safety division, for supply chain solutions at Ryder. "It's designed to prevent collisions related to distraction."
Montalbano states the system is also successful at waking up drivers who are allowing their vehicles to drift due to driver fatigue and while the system is not an answer in itself to preventing fatigue, it does help prevent head-on collisions.

Forward Collision Systems

The OnGuard Forward Collision System offered by Meritor Wabco, Troy, MI, which operates by using radar, is designed to monitor the vehicle directly in front of a truck. If the system detects that a potential collision is developing, it sends audible and visual warnings via an in-cab dash display to the driver, who is alerted to take appropriate action to prevent a crash. The warnings vary in intensity as the vehicles get closer.

"The natural tendency in designing these systems is to be way too conservative. They end up sending out too much information to the driver," says Peter Sweatman, director of the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute. "With too much information, drivers tend to tune out and have much less respect for the system."

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