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10/22/2008 4:00:00 PM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

View of Safety Technology Must Change Before Use Grows, Fleet Executives Say

By Sean McNally, Senior Reporter

This story appears in the Oct. 20 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

NEW ORLEANS — Fleet executives said that despite the benefits of using safety technology, attitudes within the industry need to change in order to have wider acceptance.

“Clearly, there is a big expense up front, but done right, it can become an investment,” Chris Lofgren, president of Schneider National Inc., said during a panel discussion here at American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition.

Craig Harper, chief operating officer of J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., said the truckload carrier spends “in excess of $50 million” annually on safety technology and training. He said the investment in safety has saved the lives of company drivers and the motoring public.

Harper said the carrier has cut its number of reportable accidents by 43% over the past decade, and its injury rate has fallen each of the past 10 years.

Steve Williams, chairman and chief executive officer of Maverick USA Inc., said his fleet’s use of safety technology “exempted us from an $18.5 million final judgment” after a crash.

However, he said, some fleets may need to be forced into using technologies such as electronic onboard recorders, lane departure warning and collision avoidance systems.

“If it is left up to this industry at large, it will take forever to get done,” Williams said. “I would be one to advocate for a mandate.”

Failing that, Williams said, trucking is “going to have to have regulatory and/or financial incentives in order to get the industry to embrace some of these technologies.”

Doug Duncan, CEO of FedEx Freight, suggested that fleets “have got to get credit for what we’re investing in.”

Those credits, either in the form of tax incentives or relief from regulations, he said, would help promote the broader use of technology.

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