An Industry Panel Discusses Safety Technology In Trucking

The conversation has been ongoing. Truck manufacturers, regulators and technology firms are increasingly looking to technology to improve their safety measures. Whether it be advanced driver-assistance systems or rollover-sending technology, the push for “safety through technology” is ongoing.

Although technology companies looking to change how trucking gets done are ever-increasingly raising more capital, the view behind whether or not the answer is technological isn’t universally-held.

On one side of the argument you have those who think technology will slow increases in traffic deaths, while those who advocate a slower roll towards full adoption due to increased regulatory, training and cyber-security concerns.

On July 24th, the National Transportation Safety Board alongside the National Safety Council convened a meeting.

This meeting included a panel of everyone from the regulators themselves to insurance, manufacturing and technology providers. The meeting was designed as a brainstorming session on how to better incorporate advanced driver assistance technology into today’s heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles.

While some have advocated waiting on semi-autonomous trucks and smart roads and highways to solve the safety puzzle, others within the industry advocate tackling it today, stating that the technology is there.

Did you know that motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of preventable deaths in America? According to government data, big CMVs are increasingly involved in crashes, rising year-over-year since 2015.

By ensuring advanced driver assistance technology on CMVs at an ever-increasing rate, fleets can answer safety questions while modernizing their fleet at the same time.

So, where’s the problem?

The Small/Big Divide
It’s no secret that the lobbying groups for small trucking companies often find themselves on the opposite end of a debate with their larger competitors. We’ve seen it play out in the ELD debate and more.

The same holds true for adoption of these advanced safety technologies. Small fleets often don’t quite know or understand all the intricacies and interdependent aspects of advanced driver assistance technology.

The disconnect lies in helping those who don’t understand how the technology works to get a better handle on it. Anti-collision systems are not surveillance systems, nor are they intended to go down the road of a “driverless” CMV. No, they are merely software systems that work in concert with the vehicle to ensure optimal safe operation.

The other problem lies with that these technologies often vary from developer to developer, which causes confusion, both among truck drivers and decision-makers, those purchasing the technology.

The fact is, manufacturers are going to have to come to an agreement on some type of standardization model for the new technologies being deployed. If you have a button with a different color for a specific function across multiple devices, that could be a problem.

Explaining the Difference

Smaller fleets go through a certain level of intimidation when it comes to these technologies, and having an inconsistent approach helps no one. Trucking companies also need to know when one type of technology is appropriate and when it isn’t.

If you’ve got sensors on the front of a tractor, putting a snowplow or some other obstruction on the front of it negates the system you’ve put time and money into.

A lot of smaller fleets also still utilize older vehicles in day-to-day operations. Retrofitting these vehicles can be a challenge, considering many of them don’t have the internal infrastructure to handle the added load of the technology itself.

Still, as the panel discussed, they stated that evolving vehicle design and the changing demographics of the buyer signal a shift on the horizon. Eventually, the only trucks on the road will be the trucks rolling out onto dealership floors today.

Increased safety through technology is never a bad thing, something that all on the panel agree to. How it is implemented and adopted are more difficult questions.