Here is the plain truth: Advanced driver assistance systems could save the trucking industry millions of dollars, but more importantly they can help save thousands of lives. Yet, while the trucking industry increasingly embraces these technologies, there are still a lot of outliers that question their feasibility.
There is Room for Improvement
Can we do better? Certainly. In a 2015 study completed by the Boston Consulting Group, it was found that when driver assistance safety technologies are used, nearly 30 percent of crashes could be averted. When you consider that in 2015 there were over 4,300 large truck-related crashes where there was a fatality, that 30 percent suddenly becomes quite significant.
You can also factor in the whopping $2.4 billion in property damage and nearly $50 billion in societal harm. Even more disconcerting, up to 90 percent of those crashes can be attributed to human error. If a fleet can install a system to lower that number, everyone benefits.
There are several different types and categories of driver assistance safety technologies. They include:
- Forward collision warning systems;
- Collision mitigation systems;
- Blind spot monitoring and alert systems;
- Lane departure warning systems;
- … and more!
To see these technologies make a significant impact in the annual accident rate, we will need to see widespread industry acceptance and adoption. Although technology companies are making huge progress in developing these systems, many trucking companies have yet to catch on to the trend. This is especially true for smaller fleets.
Follow the Money
As with just about anything else in this world, if you want an answer to a tough question, it’s best to follow the money. When it comes to advanced safety systems, fleets have one question: How will this pay me back?
Of course, it is easier for larger fleets to take the long view on advanced safety system return on investment. Larger fleets have the resources to step back and take a holistic look. Asking how an out-of-commission tractor factors in to down-time cost should be a factor in choosing to utilize advanced safety systems, but it is harder for smaller operations to come around to that view. The smaller the fleet, the longer the time it takes to recoup large investments in equipment or technology.
The problem is this: When a fleet decides to either forgo safety technologies or use cheap, untested versions, they are doing very little to lower their risk level and, if anything, may be raising it. If a truck driver relies on a poorly manufactured technology and it fails, that could increase the risk of an accident.
If there is one safety technology that is seeing an uptick in adoption – outside of ABS and electronic stability control, which is mandated in many instances – it is that of forward collision warning systems. Adaptive cruise control is also becoming more popular.
The best part? For fleets who have put the time, money and effort into investing in these technologies, the dividends are paying off in real-world ways. Schneider, as one example, reportedly eliminated 70 percent of the rear-end collisions they were reporting as a result of adopting collision mitigation systems. Even more astonishingly, the severity of crashes that did happen were reduced by a whopping 95 percent.
Still, there is a long way to go. Small fleets must be given a greater profit-motive for adopting these technologies. Furthermore, technologies such as lane departure and lane keeping systems, have yet to catch on in any real meaningful way.
Yet, as the economy continues to expand and the trucking industry puts more and more trucks on the road, we will have to reach a point where a critical mass of industry players, both large and small, see the benefit to advanced safety technologies and finally make the switch.