Technology Improvements for Heavy Vehicle Safety
Whether you’re the driver of a heavy vehicle or a fleet manager, on-road safety is always a priority to prevent injury, fleet damage or worse still, a fatality. While there have been many improvements to driver training and regulation over the years, and education of young motor-vehicle drivers is essential to reducing the rate of multi-vehicle crashes, technology also plays a role in delivering a safer future for heavy vehicle drivers.
A report investigating the safety features and technologies for heavy vehicles, issued by NSW Transport, has identified many safety improvement opportunities, including three key technologies:
1. Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) Systems
Research suggests that if all heavy vehicles were fitted with AEB systems, the fatality rate of heavy vehicle crashes would be reduced by 25 per cent. Considering that approximately 80 per cent of fatal multi-vehicle crashes involved a heavy vehicle, a 25 per cent reduction in fatalities would significantly improve on-road safety for both car and heavy vehicle drivers.
An AEB system warns the driver of a truck or heavy vehicle when a crash threat is identified in front of the vehicle and applies braking. The system relies on a radar or optical sensor, and some advanced systems are capable of detecting and protecting cyclists and pedestrians, as well as cars.
Unfortunately, this system cannot be retrofitted in a cost-effective way, so it is a technology that should instead be sought-out in new-vehicle purchases.
1. Lane Departure Warning Systems (LDWS)
A large number of heavy vehicle crashes involve running off the road, meaning a preventative technology like LDWS is highly beneficial to heavy vehicle drivers, though all highway drivers can benefit. The system warns drivers when their vehicle unintentionally crosses a lane boundary and can be retrofitted onto older vehicles.
Research suggests that when the system is fitted on heavy vehicles, it may prevent about six per cent of fatal heavy vehicle crashes.
2. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) System
An ESC system has the potential to effectively avoid rollover crashes by minimising trailer swing when the brakes are suddenly and severely applied to a heavy vehicle. The system works by assessing a drivers intended path, comparing this with the actual direction and the vehicle’s performance.
It is estimated that when fitted to a heavy vehicle, ESC systems may prevent around four per cent of heavy vehicle crashes. The technology cannot be retrofitted to older trucks without significant financial outlay, making it another technology that should be sought when making a new purchase.
Driver monitoring systems
Aside from these three technologies, there is also a selection of driver monitoring equipment to improve safety, prevent crashes, and provide analytics for future crash prevention. Two examples produced by DriveRisk are DriveCam and DriveAlert both can be retrofitted.
DriveCam records up to 100 hours of video evidence of what’s happening on the road and/or inside the driver’s cabin. This can be helpful in the event of an accident, and also provides support for long-term behavioural changes and coaching.
DriveAlert tracks the eyes and facial features of heavy vehicle operators to detect fatigue and distracted driving behaviours. It can then alert the driver, predicting and preventing risky behaviours.
Both DriveCam and DriveAlert can also be beneficial when making insurance claims.