The widest, tallest, heaviest vehicles on our highways are commercial tractor-trailers. Because these big rigs can weigh 20 to 30 times as much as passenger vehicles, they often cause catastrophic injuries or fatalities in violent highway collisions.
Fortunately, advances in auto safety technology can help to reduce both the frequency and severity of commercial truck crashes.
An effective pairing
In a study last year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that equipping large commercial trucks with automatic emergency braking (AEB) and forward-collision warning systems would result in more than a 40 percent reduction in collisions in which a big rig rear-ends another vehicle.
By slowing large trucks before the moment of impact, the inclusion of those systems also reduces the severity of the rear-end crashes that do occur.
While it’s great to have this readily available technology, it’s not standard on large commercial trucks. That means many of the big rigs you see on the highway aren’t equipped with AEB or forward collision warning systems.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has for several years urged lawmakers to require truck manufacturers to include the safety systems on trucks, but the effort has been to no avail.
Though measures requiring the safety technologies are pending in Congress, nothing is guaranteed in today’s sharply divided Washington D.C.
Acceptance and adoption
Some trucking industry trade organizations are hoping to avoid government mandates, however, and have begun an effort to speed up the industry’s acceptance and voluntary adoption of the technology.
The trucking organizations hope that education, crash data and ongoing research – all part of a federal program called Tech-Celerate Now – will convince fleet owners that it’s in their best interests to equip their rigs with AEB and forward-collision warning.
The program also includes technologies such as adaptive cruise control, active steering systems, lane-departure alert and more.
Experts say adoption rates vary among motor carriers, but that independent owner-operators of 18-wheelers are the slowest to adopt the new tech.
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome in convincing independent owners and fleet owners is getting truckers to understand and accept – and even like – the safety tech. That process involves education about what the technologies can and can’t do, and then convincing them that the safety benefits are a profitable return on their investments.
After all, no fleet owner or independent trucker wants to face financially devastating personal injury litigation after involvement in a truck accident.