The Eaton VORAD adaptiveadaptive cruise cruise control consists ofcontrol consists of a radar unit and an in-cab display display module. module

While the manager said he would look into adjusting the units, he really had no intention of doing so. Over time, the drivers realized, possibly subconsciously, that if they increased following distances, alerts became less frequent. Eventually, drivers accepted the devices. And not surprisingly, accidents decreased.

Fewer crashes for this Chicago-based fleet paid for equipping all of its trucks in just a few months. As we saw in “Crash Course,” although rear-end crashes cause little damage to trucks, they wreak havoc among cars they run into.

Lane drift

Another fleet decided to test the Iteris lane departure warning (LDW) system. This optically scans the road ahead and warns the driver of a potential collision. Warnings can be audio, visual, or by touch, including using tactile sensations. Motors embedded in the driver's seat can simulate the feel of rumble strips. Engineers thought this type of warning was effective to indicate drifting out of a lane.

The manager installed the LDW systems in just 10 of the more than 1100 trucks. Drivers rotated through those LDW units for a week at a time. In just a short time, drivers were asking for LDW systems on their assigned trucks. Managers retrofitted all trucks in a year. The fleet manager reported that the capital investment for the LDW systems paid for itself by reducing claims from sideswipe crashes.

A third, more intrusive system involves video recording. We've seen examples, as they are popular with law enforcement.

SmartDrive and DriveCam provide two lens video recording systems for severe-duty trucks. One wide-angle lens records the road ahead and around the vehicle; the other is focused on the driver. The units also record driver errors, including failure to buckle seat-belts, following too closely, speeding, and other unsafe practices.

Drivers in several fleets that initially tested the cameras were very wary of having Big Brother scanning all of their actions. To prevent this mistrust, the manufacturers counseled fleet managers before installation on how to best use the new information. Trainers stressed that instead of using the data to discipline drivers, fleet managers should view them as a training tool to help counsel drivers on how to improve safety and productivity.

One fleet manager told me that driver acceptance was established the first time each fleet had a crash which could have turned into a “he said, she said” situation. The cameras established that the fleet driver did everything properly; the other driver was shown to be clearly wrong.

These are not the only attempts to introduce passive safety systems into trucking. But right now, you, the fleet manager, has a unique opportunity to research what systems are available for trucks you might buy. How to best introduce each one to your drivers is the challenge.

Paul Abelson is a former director of the Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Association and is currently on the Board of Truck Writers of North America. E-mail