It is no secret that tractor-trailers competing with passenger cars on our nation’s roads and highways can potentially invite disaster. In fact, deaths from crashes involving large trucks and passenger cars have been rising since 2016. While it could be attributed to lots more newer truck drivers on the road, the fact is, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) deaths are up 5.4% from the same period in 2015.
Yet, more can still be done. Research clearly proves that advanced safety systems continue to reduce crashes as they continue to be installed on more and more passenger vehicles. Systems like forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are making a big difference in preventing crashes and saving lives.
More on the Problem
The problem is, we are not yet seeing enough adoption of these devices on large commercial motor vehicles. Far too many big rigs on the road today are too old and simply predate the advent of these new safety technologies. In fact, according to some estimates, only around 15% of large commercial motor vehicle fleets in the United states are using advances safety systems on their rigs.
Unfortunately, it is also estimated that over 100,000 crashes per year – a quarter of those involving large commercial motor vehicles – could be prevented if systems such as blind spot warnings and stability control were standard on semi-trucks. Many argue, and rightfully so, that these technologies should be prioritized for trucks before cars. With up to 80,000 pounds barreling down the road, no safety stone should be left unturned.
There are two types of safety systems used on trucks. One alerts truck drivers of dangers, whether it be a potential collision or lane departure, and the other helps to prevent collisions, whether through emergency braking or turn assist. Many say truck manufacturers need to make these features much more readily available on the equipment they sell.
On the other side are trucking organizations that point to swift OEM action to adopt these technologies. They feel more regulation is not necessary. Technology is wonderful, but it cannot replace an experienced and skilled truck driver. What is more, trucking advocacy organizations point to the fact that more large truck accidents are caused by the drivers of passenger cars than they are by the truck driver, which research proves.
Yet, with safety technology showing widespread adoption among passenger vehicles, some openly wonder why trucking accidents and deaths are on the rise. One major consideration is the improving economy. More passenger cars and trucks are on our nation’s roads, which increases the chances for an accident.
Big Shippers Make Moves
One way to ensure we see swift adoption is to see big companies get in the game. As one example, United Parcel Service has been retrofitting a lot of their older vehicles with new, advanced safety systems. UPS now says that nearly half of their fleet is outfitted with collision-mitigation systems and they are hoping to see that number inch towards 70% by 2020.
FedEx and DHL have already made similar moves. But how much movement towards greater adoption remains to be seen. With the American Trucking Associations (ATA) coming out strongly against regulation mandating adoption, many companies may be sitting on the sidelines. It might take more prodding to get them to jump in.
Cost is another factor. Owner-operators and small fleets may not have the capital requirements necessary to procure the equipment. Many owner-operators point to million-mile records without an accident, but is this enough? Clearly, with more people hitting the roads, more needs to be done to ensure large commercial motor vehicles continue to see widespread safety technology adoption.