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July 24, 2017 4:00 AM, EDT

Truck Safety: Human and Equipment Factors

The intersection of the human and equipment-­related elements of truck safety is reflected in the two cover stories in this issue of Equipment & Maintenance Update.

Drivers with sleep apnea, a disorder that causes brief interruptions of breathing during sleep, is the focus of contributing writer Mindy Long’s cover story.

American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council has established a task force to develop a recommended practice for power management strategies for in-cab medical devices, including CPAP machines. “Medical devices such as a CPAP are becoming more and more required in the trucking industry because of health issues and drivers need good sleep,” said Rylar Masco, chairman of the task force and national OEM representative at Purkeys, an electronics manufacturer.

Fran Matso Lysiak, Equipment Editor

Read the story to learn how some fleets are making available power a priority.

The other cover story, by contributing writer Bruce Lilly, reports on a well-known development in the industry: the government mandate of electronic stability control has arrived. All new Classes 7-8 tractors sold on or after Aug. 1 must be equipped with this safety technology.

ESC uses sensors to anticipate potential truck insta­bility, such as an impending rollover, and automatically adjusts the throttle and the brakes to prevent an accident.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mandate, however, means more fleets will need to understand how these ESC systems work and how to properly maintain them, Lilly reports.

“Certainly you want the brakes to be well-maintained, because that’s what ESC uses to control the vehicle in the case of an event,” says Brian Gigoux, vice president of equipment and maintenance for Groendyke Transport, a carrier based in Enid, Okla. Gigoux recommends adhering to a comprehensive maintenance program that includes brakes, tires, compressed air systems and anti-lock braking systems.

Fleets, however, may encounter confusion concerning ESC maintenance if their drivers misread the way the truck responds in ESC-related events, Lilly reports.

“Some drivers may start to complain about the brakes coming on or the throttle being cut when they’re going around turns or something similar,” said Fred Andersky, director of government and industry affairs at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, one of the companies that manufactures ESC systems for the North American trucking industry.

Drivers should be aware that the ESC is taking control of the throttle and brakes to prevent an accident. “It’s possible that some of these drivers have repeatedly been close to a rollover or loss of control but have barely avoided a crash without realizing it,” Andersky said.

Meanwhile, another type of safety system also has been the subject of much discussion lately.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said earlier this year that it supports creating a new safety mandate requiring side underride guards on semitrailers to help reduce a leading cause of truck-involved accident fatalities. Federal law requires large trucks to have rear underride guards but not side guards, IIHS said.

In this issue, columnist Phil Romba takes the view that the majority of fleets will only adopt trailer side underride guards if they are forced to by the government.

“A government mandate of trailer side underride would level the playing field,” Romba writes. “At the same time, however, a mandate also would make trailers heavier, more expensive and more costly to maintain.”

This debate likely will continue in the coming months, or possibly, years.