p>With the purchase of nearly 1,300 Freightliner Cascadia 2010 tractors equipped with an integrated suite of advanced driver alert and truck control technologies, Con-way Freight (NYSE: CNW) is taking the next step in safety with aninvestment totaling more than $100 million.

The package includes systems to provide rollover stability, front collision and lane departure warnings and an in-dash entertainment system. The suite of systems represents $5.4 million of the $100 million purchase, all designed to improve the safety profile of the carrier.

“We know, and research shows, smart technologies like these have the potential to prevent accidents,” Bob Petrancosta, vice president of safety, told Fleet Owner. The approximately 1,300 vehicles represent about 15% of the total fleet for the LTL carrier.

Testing of the technologies began back in February 2009. In partnership with FMCSA and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), Con-way Freight participated in the Dept. of Transportation-funded Integrated Vehicle-Based Safety System (IVBSS) program. As part of its participation, Con-way Freight purchased ten Class 8 tractors equipped with the IVBSS suite of technologies and placed them into service.

The testing is part of an UMTRI study on safety that will be released this summer.

“Advanced technologies that have proven safety benefits hold great promise for making our highways safer,” said Bill Graves, president & CEO of American Trucking Assns. “Con-way Freight’s significant investment illustrates their leadership and commitment to further developing and testing these technologies.”

Petrancosta said the company had tested both forward-collision warning systems and lane departure systems prior to the IVBSS program, but that the technology has improved significantly since then.

“The IVBSS study just helped us confirm that there is a place for these technologies in the cab,” he said. “One, we felt we had a product we could rely on, and two, we had driver acceptance.”

And the safety benefits of the systems played a large role as well. Federal studies have indicated that the most common incidences of commercial motor vehicle crashes involve front-end collisions, lane changes or departures, and rollovers. Implementation of these technologies will help Con-way Freight mitigate these dangers.

“Our main reason is really to protect our drivers,” Petrancosta said. “We’ve made the commitment to include these technologies on all new vehicles we purchase.”

Developed by Meritor Wabco, the OnGuard forward collision warning system uses adaptive cruise control to help vehicles maintain a safe following distance. Using forward-looking radar sensor technology, the system will detect the distance between the tractor and the vehicle in front of it, and using a set of algorithms, calculates the distance needed to stop the vehicle safely. If it determines the truck is traveling too close, both audible and visual warnings are sent to the driver. If the driver does not react, the system automatically decelerates the truck until it is a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

Petrancosta said the system will adapt to the speed of the vehicle and does not require the cruise control to be activated to work. He added that overall control of the vehicle remains in the driver’s hands, even once the system is initiated.

Meritor Wabco also developed the Roll Stability Control system. This technology senses driving conditions or vehicle performance tendencies that are consistent with a vehicle about to rollover, such as during hard cornering or change of direction. When the system believes a rollover is imminent, an indicator lamp on the dash alerts the driver, and if there is no driver action taken, it will decrease engine torque to help get the vehicle under control.

The AutoVue Lane Departure Warning system, created by Iteris (NYSE: ITI), monitor’s a vehicle’s position relative to the highway lane markings. With image recognition software, the system can detect if the vehicle is driven unintentionally out of its lane, and an audible warning alarm, either on the left side or right side of the cab, goes off telling the driver which way the tractor is drifting.

This system also has a behavior modification element. When a driver switches lanes without engaging a turn signal, the alarm goes off, allowing it to identify between lane changes and drifting situations.

The simplest of the technology suite may be one of the most important. In-dash AM/FM/satellite radios allow drivers to adjust their music selections while keeping their heads facing forward. Petrancosta said that driver satisfaction surveys found that in many cases, lane departure warnings were triggered by a driver reaching into the passenger seat or onto the floor to adjust a portable radio. The spec’ing of in-dash radios also provides a monetary break to drivers who won’t need to purchase their own radios anymore he added.