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By integrating data from our company's SmartTrac and OnGuard active safety systems into Iteris' SafetyDirect and lane-departure warning systems, it's easier for fleet managers to collect the information they need to meet and improve safety and business goals.” –Jon Morrison, president and general manager, Meritor WABCO Vehicle Control Systems, discussing the company’s new safety monitoring system joint venture

I know, I know – before we get into discussing this new package of safety technologies, I can already hear the cries of “I won’t let ‘Big Brother’ in my cab” and “Collecting data like this will make it easier for lawyers to sue us!”

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And do you want my answers to those questions? They are “yes” and “yes.” For this technology will indeed monitor your behavior behind the wheel, as it will keep a running tally on how your truck operates, and attorneys will most assuredly subpoena this information in cases revolving around truck crashes, if they know if exists.

So, knowing that … why do it? Why, in a highly suggestive metaphor, put your head in the proverbial noose like this? Why wire your trucks with a system that will monitor and synchronize driver performance reports on braking, stability control, following distances, collision safety system braking and lane-departure warnings for your entire fleet.

[Just for fun … remember how much trickier it used to be to operate trucks safely, especially in winter, which is rapidly approaching? Take a look at this old video that demonstrates anti-skid braking techniques and the like. You’ll also get a kick, I think, out of seeing a lot of “classic” truck models, like Ford’s old C-Series, in action …]

This new system – which ties together Iteris’ Lane Departure Warning (LDW) systems and Meritor WABCO’s SmartTrac and OnGuard active safety systems via Qualcomm’s Mobile Computing Platform 100 and 200 Series – then goes on to churn out comprehensive reports on all the metrics listed above by event location, date, time, speed, and odometer reading, then goes a step further to create a “safety trending” score to see how you as a fleet are faring.

Sound scary? Sure it does. Fleets would be able to “see” how your drivers are operating equipment on a minute-by-minute basis (maybe even in the literal sense, if fleets choose to add in-cab video systems as well) and then all of that data could potentially be laid out in a court of law for a judge and jury to view as well.

You know what I think sounds scarier, though? NOT having this type of technology in a truck.

Here’s my line of thinking on this: in the bulk of truck-car collisions on the highway, the truck driver is NOT at fault. That’s not opinion, either – it’s fact. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found in a study released back in 2002 that in 73% of the truck-car crashes it reviewed, NO unsafe act on the part of the truck driver caused the accident.

[Jon Morrison, president and general manager of Meritor WABCO Vehicle Control Systems, discussed some of these very issues a couple of years ago with me. Here's some of his thoughts on the subject.]

Now, wouldn’t it be nice to PROVE – in no uncertain terms – that this is the case, especially if a truck in your fleet is involved in a crash? To be able to point to a stream of data and say, “See, our driver was in his lane and at the speed limit … then this car cut him off and he jackknifed while trying to stop.”

Now, in SafetyDirect’s case, several different systems recording different data streams are linked together:

• SmartTrac – a suite of active safety systems that can assist the driver in maintaining control of the vehicle in response to an impending loss of directional or roll stability.

• OnGuard – a forward-looking radar-based collision safety system that can detect objects in a vehicle's path and automatically engage the throttle, engine retarder, and service brakes when it senses an impending collision thereby assisting the driver in avoiding rear end collisions.

• Iteris LDW – a lane-departure warning system that uses a camera and onboard computer to track visible lane markings and detect when a vehicle drifts toward an unintended lane change.

All of this then gets plugged into Qualcomm’s communication device and analytics manager service, which takes all of this data and converts it into easy-to-use visual tools such as dashboards, graphs, and tables.

The result, these suppliers say, is a “holistic view” into a fleet’s operational and safety performance. It also allows fleet managers to more easily identify risky driving behavior and provide drivers with the training (when necessary) to reinforce safe driving practices.

More importantly, I think, though, is that all of this data could be used as “positive” evidence – proof positive of good driving records, proper vehicle operation, etc. And, in a crash situation, it could be invaluable data, allowing BOTH the driver and the fleet to prove they weren’t responsible for a crash – which, more than seven times out of 10, is likely going to be the case.

What's Trucks at Work?

Trucks at Work: Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.

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