Study shows safety technology benefits

| September 11, 2010

Truck crash warning systems enhance driver safety and help prevent potential accidents based on a yearlong field test, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and Con-way Freight announced on Sept. 9.

The results were made available in a newly issued report funded by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Con-way Freight supported the study by providing 10 Class 8 commercial freight tractors equipped with the Integrated Vehicle-Based Safety System technology. Over the 10-month study that began in February 2009, 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 and 22,724 trips, while generating 13,678 hours of data. While the test vehicles were driven, data acquisition systems recorded driver actions and responses to the integrated warning system. UMTRI researchers then analyzed the data to study the effect that the integrated warning system had on driver acceptance and changes in driver behavior.

Among the study’s key findings:
• The majority of drivers perceived the integrated crash warning system would increase driver safety, and it made them more aware of the traffic environment around their vehicle and their position in the lane;
• Seven drivers reported the integrated system prevented them from having a crash;
• Fifteen out of 18 drivers said they prefer a truck equipped with the integrated safety system and would recommend 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 significant effect helping drivers maintain lane positions closer to the center; and
• Overall, drivers responded more quickly to potential rear-end crash scenarios with the system.

Based on its experience with the study, Con-way Freight chose to invest in the new technologies for all new replacement units added to the fleet this year – more than 1,300 Freightliner Cascadia Class 8 tractors, said Bob Petrancosta, vice president of safety.

“The insight we gained from the IVBSS study confirmed the feedback we got from our drivers – these technologies are ready for prime time and are effective at helping drivers avoid the most common instances of crashes involving commercial trucks,” Petrancosta said.

The 1,300 new tractors each were equipped with an integrated suite of “detect, alert and respond” systems that provide for rollover stability, front collision warning with radar-based adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning. The safety technologies for the new tractors, all of which have gone into service, represent a cumulative investment of about $5 million.

On Oct. 20, DOT will present the full results of the report during a one-day public meeting in Ypsilanti, Mich. For more information or to register for the meeting, go to www.umtri.umich.edu/public/ivbss/.