Kudos to Fleet Owners for Installing Collision Avoidance Systems

By Jana Price

On July 22, UPS announced it would make collision avoidance systems (CAS) standard equipment on all new class 8 tractors it orders, including the more than 2,600 new tractors it will acquire in 2015. Class 8 vehicles are those with a gross vehicle weight rating over 33,000 pounds, such as most tractor-trailers and dump trucks—typically vehicles with three or more axles.Photo of UPS truck

In its announcement, UPS cited the NTSB’s Special Investigation Report, The Use of Forward Collision Avoidance Systems to Prevent and Mitigate Rear-End Crashes. In our report, we discussed how more than 80 percent of deaths and injuries from rear-end crashes might have been mitigated had vehicles been equipped with a collision avoidance system. A Safety Alert urging consumers and fleet owners to consider transitioning their fleets to vehicles equipped with collision warning and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) also accompanied the report’s release.

UPS’s decision to equip its fleet with CAS is part of a growing trend, as companies recognize the safety benefits associated with these systems. For example, Walmart, Conway, and Quickway Transportation have their entire fleet already equipped with CAS or are purchasing truck-tractors with the latest generation of forward CAS.

The NTSB has called for technological approaches to address rear-end collisions since 1995, and although some progress has been made, far too many rear-end crashes still occur. For example, in 2012 alone, more than 1.7 million rear-end crashes occurred on our nation’s highways, resulting in more than 1,700 fatalities and 500,000 injured people. Many of these crashes could have been mitigated, or possibly even prevented, with forward CAS.

Forward CAS works by monitoring the environment—either via lidar (light detection and ranging), radar, camera, or a fusion of different technologies—for potential conflicts, such as a slow moving or stopped vehicle. When it detects a conflict, it alerts a driver through different warning cues. If the conflict persists, the system initiates AEB or provides additional braking force if the driver does not brake strongly enough.

The benefits of forward CAS are considerable for large trucks; however, according to one industry estimate, only 8–10 percent of truck-tractors in the United States in 2013 were equipped with these systems.

Based on the available research evidence and testing that support the benefits of forward CAS, we have recommended that passenger vehicle, truck-tractor, motorcoach, and single-unit truck manufacturers install forward CAS that include, at a minimum, a forward collision warning component, as standard equipment on all new vehicles. And once performance standards for autonomous emergency braking are complete, those systems should also be included as standard equipment.

Forward CAS systems are currently available as options on many cars and trucks. We applaud UPS and the other companies I mentioned for installing these live-saving systems. More carriers should follow suit.

Jana Price, PhD, is Chief of the Report Development Division in NTSB’s Office of Highway Safety.

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