WASHINGTON, D.C. – According to Michael von Mayenburg, Freightliner Group senior vp of engineering & technology, the main challenge to getting advanced safety technology onto commercial trucks boils down to cost.

“The trucking industry is very competitive and calculates everything down to the penny. That’s why safety devices are not an easy sell,” he Fleet Owner this week at an “Innovations Symposium” held here by Freightliner’s parent company, DaimlerChrysler.

“As an engineer, I see this completely differently, because if the technology saves even one life, then it’s worth it to put on our trucks,” von Mayenburg stressed.

Freightliner showcased a Class 8 demonstration truck at the symposium that boasted a variety of active safety technologies, including electronic stability control (ESC), electronically controlled braking systems, radar collision warning with adaptive cruise control, a lane departure warning system, and a “Sidetracker” visibility camera to give drivers a view of a truck’s blind spot.

The new Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system, developed in cooperation with Meritor-Wabco, is designed to increase vehicle stability by applying engine controls and individual wheel brakes to control the yaw rate of the tractor and trailer on the road, said von Mayenburg.

In critical situations, when the vehicle does not follow the path the operator has requested, ESC corrects these conditions by individually applying wheel brakes at the appropriate corners of the vehicle to rotate it, thus correcting its actual path to match the driver’s request – preventing the vehicle from jackknifing, going off the road, etc. In this kind of situation, the trailer brakes are also pulsed to assure that the combination remains stable throughout the event, he said. According to von Mayenburg, ESC offers a leg up on cost as fleets can calculate direct cost savings from accidents ESC is designed to prevent.

Freightliner has sold already 10,000 trucks equipped with Roll Advisor, a system that automatically cuts power to the engine and applies the brakes to prevent a tractor-trailer from rolling over in a tight turn which has been available since 2003.

“Roll Advisor is the first safety device we’ve introduced that’s really sold well,” he said. “I believe that’s because many of our customers have experienced rollovers and so they can calculate a direct savings from having this technology.”

While emerging technologies hold considerable potential for enhancing heavy-duty truck safety, von Mayenburg explained that the truck driver remains the key to safe heavy-duty truck operations. “The basis of safe operations will continue to be a skilled, trained truck driver,” he said.

Freightliner also demonstrated its radar collision warning system with adaptive cruise control that is designed to alert the driver to a slower-moving vehicle to avoid rear-end collisions. A buzzer sounds if the radar-based system detects the truck is maintaining an unsafe following distance. If the adaptive cruise control is on, the system will actively establish a safer following distance using the throttle, engine brake or tractor foundation brake.

Also shown by the OEM was a lane guidance system that uses a digital camera and in-cab monitor to display a view of the entire right side of the truck.