« Bike Path to Nowhere | Main | Obama’s Infrastructure Investment Proposal – Good Vision, But Where’s the Money? »

Crash Warning Systems Take Commercial Truck Safety to the Next Level

By Randy Mullett | 10/27/2010 | 11:44 AM

 Addressing driver distraction has been a major priority for the trucking industry, as we seek ways to improve safety on our nation’s highways. As Scott Belcher points out in his post, there are three basic types of distractions for drivers: visual, manual and cognitive, and texting is one technology that involves all three. Research from a study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) shows that drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds while texting. At 55 miles per hour, texting drivers will travel the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road!

The same study found that drivers who texted while driving were 23 times more likely to have a collision. 

 Even before data from the VTTI study was released just over a year ago, Con-way Freight recognized the danger of texting and instituted a texting ban for all of its 15,000 drivers, but texting is just one of many distractions that drivers face. Safety advocates agree that the solution for distracted driving must include upgraded technologies that help warn drivers of impending crashes.

That’s why Con-way Freight joined with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) for a 10-month field test investigating driver distractions and recording driver behavior using an in-cab camera along with other data gathering tools. 

Con-way Freight provided 10 Class-8 commercial freight tractors for the study. Over the course of the study, 18 Con-way Freight drivers operated the trucks out of the company’s Detroit service center as part of its normal business operations, logging 601,844 miles; 22,724 trips; and generating 13,678 hours of data. While the test vehicles were driven, data acquisition systems recorded driver actions and reactions as they went through the course of their trips. UMTRI researchers then analyzed the data to study the effect that the integrated warning system had on driver acceptance and changes in driver behavior.

 Key findings from the study include:

  • Seven drivers reported the integrated system prevented them from potentially having a crash
  • Fifteen out of 18 drivers said they prefer a truck equipped with the integrated safety system and would recommend that their employers purchase such a system
  • In terms of satisfaction, drivers rated warnings for lane departures the highest, and second highest in terms of perceived usefulness
  • The integrated crash warning system had a statistically significant effect helping drivers maintain lane positions closer to the center
  • Overall, drivers responded more quickly to potential rear-end crash scenarios with the system

 The results of the study were so compelling that Con-way Freight chose to invest in new  safety technologies for our fleet this year, ahead of any government mandate, equipping 1300 new road tractors. The technologies included an adaptive cruise control system that automatically maintains a safe distance behind the vehicle ahead; a roll stability control system that can sense an impending rollover and warn the driver via an indicator lamp on the dash and even apply brakes if the driver does not act; and an accidental lane departure warning system that sounds an alarm to alert drivers if they are inadvertently driving out of their lane. For our drivers, it was a worthwhile investment to make them better and help improve their safety and those with whom we share the nation’s highways. 

 While we can never remove all driver distractions, we have the technology to alert drivers to impending crashes and improve safety records significantly. As motor carriers move quickly to implement these safety measures in advance of changing policies, the good news from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) is that trucking safety has improved dramatically since 2004. ATRI’s analysis of data from approximately 260 motor carriers representing 127,000 commercial drivers shows that the total collision rate dropped 11.7 percent from 2004 to 2009. Preventable collisions declined 30.6 percent. 

 As more and more of these high-tech measures are deployed nationally, we should continue to see a reduction in collisions involving motor carriers and an increase in driver safety. Investment in these technologies can provide real-world, lifesaving results and that’s an investment we are proud to make.


StumbleUpon Toolbar StumbleUpon


By submitting your comments, you agree to our Terms of Service.

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Randy Mullett

Randy Mullett

C. Randal (Randy) Mullett is founder and principal of Mullett Strategies, LLC. Helping clients navigate the intricacies of Washington, DC, he focuses on transportation/freight policy, sustainability, security, and issue advocacy messaging. Prior to his current role, Mullett was vice president, government relations and public affairs, for XPO Logistics (previously Con-way Inc.) As a member of Con-way's Executive Leadership Team, he had responsibility for all government relations, corporate security, and public affairs activities including PR, corporate communication, brand management, social media, and corporate social responsibility. Additionally, he was Con-way's Chief Sustainability Officer and President of the Con-way Foundation.

Before going to Washington, he spent 25 years in LTL trucking operations and sales management. He served on the board of directors of the National Association of Manufacturers, The American Trucking Associations, The Cargo Airlines Association, The American Benefits Council, and the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. Additionally, he is a member of the USDOT's National Freight Advisory Committee and DHS's Highway and Motor Carrier Sector Coordinating Committee. A resident of Berryville, Va., Mr. Mullet holds a bachelor's degree from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.V., and an MBA from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.


Popular Tags

Subscribe to DC Velocity

Subscribe to DC Velocity Start your FREE subscription to DC Velocity!

Subscribe to DC Velocity
Go digital