Latest figures from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show that in 2019 collisions involving large trucks caused over 4,000 fatalities, the majority of which were occupants in passenger vehicles. Due to their size and weight, trucks can cause more damage in an accident, so ensuring that their drivers stay alert and focused is crucial for road safety. Technology can be used to directly observe a driver’s behavior and help to prevent accidents caused by fatigue and distracted driving. In addition to fitting in-cab devices to monitor driver activity, many of the same safety innovations used in the car industry are adapted to fit large commercial vehicles in order to reduce the risk of collisions and improve safety levels for all road users.
Monitoring Driver Activity with In-Cab Technology
Fatigue and distracted driving are two of the most common causes of accidents between trucks and cars but both can be kept in check through monitoring drivers in real-time. Safety systems use in-cab cameras to watch for distracted behavior such as eating or cell phone use. They are also used in conjunction with outward-facing cameras that can trigger an alarm if the truck is approaching another vehicle or pedestrian on the road too fast. While observing driver behavior is helpful in detecting distraction, information from an electronic logging device, or tachograph, records details of driver activity, preventing fatigue from driving too long without adequate breaks. Digital tachographs log a range of data including speed, distance travelled and whether the driver is on the road or resting, and because information is processed automatically, the devices cannot be tampered with.
Improving Safety with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems
While being able to monitor drivers can help to prevent dangerous driving, drivers can also use viewing technology to eliminate blind spots and detect obstacles in order to avoid collisions. With no central rearview mirror there is an extensive area behind the back end of a trailer which cannot be directly seen by the driver. Camera systems fitted under the side mirrors instantly transmit a display of this area to a screen in the cab as soon as a driver uses their turn signal. When these cameras are combined with sensors and radar detection fitted along the truck, drivers can be made aware of nearby hazards and obstacles in their blind spot or when visibility is poor. Even if a hazard remains unseen, the cameras of an automatic emergency braking (AEB) system will detect an object ahead and stop the truck if the driver takes no action to slow down or stop the vehicle. As they become more sophisticated and widely fitted, the NHTSA predicts that future generation AEB systems could prevent over 6,300 collisions every year.
While large commercial vehicles are involved in fewer accidents than cars, they can cause more damage in a collision. Monitoring drivers can prevent fatigue and distracted driving, two of the main causes of accidents. The addition of innovative safety technology further enhances a driver’s awareness and improves the safety of trucks on the road.