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Trucking industry speakers discuss safety technology, incentives

Panel speakers from left: Tim LaFon, Volvo; Scott Burkhart, Bendix Electronics; Reggie Dupre’, Dupre’ Logistics LLC.; Rebecca Brewster, ATRI (The Trucker: Aprille Hanson)

By Aprille Hanson
The Trucker Staff


DALLAS — Speakers at the panel discussion, “How Regulations and Customer Demand are Driving Safety Technology Forward,” at the fourth annual Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference here Wednesday stressed the need for more safety technology in the industry but were quick to point out it does not replace the need for qualified, safe drivers.

“There are 1.2 million reasons for us to continue this work,” said Tim LaFon, Volvo director of regulatory affairs, North America. “That’s the number of fatalities the World Health Organization provided for a year. Obviously that’s way too high.”

Scott Burkhart, Vice President and General Manager of Bendix Electronics, a developer and manufacturer of active safety and braking system technologies, echoed that sentiment, bringing it back around to the trucking industry. Citing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 75 billion large trucks were involved in accidents for a year. Along with tragedy generally comes a hefty cost, particularly for fleets with a big rig involved accident.

Burkhart estimated the following litigation costs: $10 million for a fatality accident, $1 million for an injury accident and $100,000 for property damage.

“This is a bottom line impact for our customers,” Burkhart said. “We believe we can help them improve their bottom line through these technologies.”

While many companies have deployed stability systems in their trucks, the need for full electronic stability, allowing the truck technology to take over to potentially prevent an action is the next step, Burkhart said. He added out of “three trucks going down a line, one has stability [technology].”

“We have more sensors … we can take and intervene faster with full electronic stability,” Burkhart said. “On a roll only stability system, it helps prevent roll-over,” but full stability allows the technology to control the steer axle, drive axle and trailer.

According to a notice of proposed rulemaking in 2012 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, full-stability technology would be mandatory on tractor-trailers with a gross weight higher than 26,000 pounds. If approved, it would take effect in 2016, Burkhart said, adding that out of 12 trucks, only one has CMS implemented.

Bendix’s WingmanAdvanced includes active cruise control, braking features and collision mitigation technology.

“It always warns a half a second or more before applying brakes for a driver to intervene,” Burkhart said. “We won’t sell this product unless it’s on a full stability platform.”

Burkhart also revealed Bendix’s next venture in safety technology: Next Generation System, where the cameras and radars work together.

“We’re in the midst now of finalizing the development of NG mitigation systems … with the radar and camera working together – how to stop the vehicle, how to hard stop the vehicle. We’ll be able to do … sign recognition … but these technologies are not meant to replace drivers,” Burkhart said.

Burkhart also mentioned the possibility of a monitoring system for maintenance.

Working hand-in-hand with Bendix, Volvo’s LaFon said the company has installed several active safety features on the trucks to help avoid a crash, including Volvo enhanced cruise (stationary object detection with audible and visual warnings), lane departure warning, right-hand blind spot detection and tire pressure monitoring system.

“The federal regulations are the minimum requirements to meet. We can always do more,” LaFon said. “We’re the experts in these type of devices … we don’t need a regulation to get us there. It’s our responsibility.

Burkhart said he did not know off-hand the estimated cost for the various safety systems. The FMCSA website said CMS was approximately $2,500 more than what anti-lock brake systems and stability control systems cost.

Reggie Dupre’, CEO of Dupre’ Logistics LLC., said the company’s approach to safety was both practical and emotional, as drivers have been killed in recent years.

“We try to get technology that would give the operator immediate feedback,” Dupre’ said. “It’s really helped us” to target coaching to specific drivers who need more safety feedback.

“It identifies which are your most safe and unsafe drivers,” Dupre’ said. “Let’s get proactive and prevent accidents.”

Rebecca Brewster, president and CEO of the American Transportation Research Institute, said the organization has had a positive response from FMCSA on the possibility of offering incentives, the lowering of CSA scores in certain areas if safety technology is installed.

Troubling statistics, like 23 percent of big rig drivers using GPS technology meant for four-wheelers which can lead them into areas that are unsafe, led to the idea for incentives.

“It’s the possibility through reductions in CSA scores based on the deployment of technology,” Brewster said. “We’ve had a very positive reaction with FMCSA … and we are going to start developing a pilot project to test” the response from companies.

“We somehow need to get over that cost hurdle,” of safety technology, she added.

All of the speakers agreed that more safety technology is going to become mandatory in the future for tractor-trailers, with collision mitigation systems at the forefront.

“It shows a lot of promise for the future and I’m looking forward to that,” Burkhart said.

The Trucker staff writer Aprille Hanson can be reached to comment on this article at aprilleh@thetrucker.com.

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