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September 21, 2017 11:30 AM, EDT

AAA Study: Onboard Safety Systems Could Prevent 63,000 Large Truck Crashes

Equipping large trucks with advanced video-based safety technologies has the potential to prevent up to 63,000 truck-related crashes each year, according to a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The 15-month study said that in 2015 large trucks were involved in more than 400,000 crashes that resulted in more than 4,000 deaths and 116,000 injuries — a 4% increase from 2014.

A Bendix demonstration truck with its lane-departure warning system, one of the lifesaving technologies cited by AAA research. (Bendix Commerical Vehicle Systems)

The study, “Leveraging Large Truck Technology and Engineering to Realize Safety Gains,” examined the societal safety benefits and costs of installing four advanced safety technologies in new and existing large trucks. The technologies were lane departure warning systems, automatic emergency braking, air disc brakes and video-based onboard safety monitoring systems.

“There’s no question that truck safety technology saves lives,” said David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “This new research shows that the benefits of adding many of these technologies to trucks clearly outweigh the cost.”

One of the primary objectives of the study was to notify average motorists that many truckers are deploying the safety technologies in hopes that they would be less uneasy when traveling on the highway next to large tractor-trailer rigs, said Brian Tefft, senior researcher at AAA foundation.

Tefft said the study did not include original research on the effectiveness of the technologies themselves. “The approach to the study was to review all of the best available published evidence from studies by others,” Tefft said.

While the majority of motorists feel “discomfort” being around large trucks, about one in four adults say adding safety technology to large trucks would help them feel better about sharing the road, according to a recent AAA companion survey of the safety systems.

“It’s understandable that many motorists are fearful and feel vulnerable when traveling near large trucks,” said Jake Nelson, AAA director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research. “Adding these safety technologies to the trucking fleet is not only cost-effective, but doing so helps to alleviate driver concerns and prevents crashes. In the long run, it’s a win-win for industry and drivers nationwide.”

After a review of the research literature and discussions with experts, AAA analysts concluded that:

• Large-truck lane departure warning systems can prevent up to 6,372 crashes, 1,342 injuries and 115 deaths each year.

• Video-based onboard safety monitoring systems can prevent as many as 63,000 crashes, 17,733 injuries and 293 deaths each year.

• Automatic emergency braking can prevent up to 5,294 crashes, 2,753 injuries and 55 deaths each year.

• Air disc brakes can prevent up to 2,411 crashes, 1,447 injuries and 37 deaths each year.

The number of crashes that the technologies could prevent was estimated using the best available studies, recommendations of an advisory panel comprising experts from the federal government and trucking industry, and data on rates of large truck crashes in years 2010-2015.

AAA said the study advisory panel consisted of six individuals representing various aspects of the industry, including representatives from a commercial motor vehicle carrier, a trucking insurance company, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an advanced safety technology vendor and an industry safety consultant.

Information sources included Transportation Research Information Services, U.S. government departments such as the Department of Transportation, industry groups including American Transportation Research Institute and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Academic journals such as Accident Analysis and Prevention and the Journal of Safety Research also took part, AAA said.

Review of case studies revealed that 44-86% of safety-critical events may be prevented, and 61-80% of crashes may be prevented with video-based onboard safety monitoring systems. One technology vendor told AAA that the cost of video-based systems ranged from $300 to $750 (including installation) with monthly service fees ranging from $20 to $60 per truck.

Overall acceptance of the technologies is difficult to measure, Nelson said.

“Having actual, reliable data on the penetration of these technologies across the different trucking segments is hard to come by,” Nelson told Transport Topics. “But, certainly, we know that the smaller owner-operators are among the last to deploy these technologies due to the cost. Some of the larger fleets are the ones who are advancing first in that direction.”