Truck Technology and Accident Prevention on West Virginia Roads
Over the past decade, car safety features have become more advanced and more common. Many features are now standard or more affordable, such as forward-collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB). More importantly, research has shown that these features are reducing crashes.
However, the vast majority of tractor-trailers and other commercial vehicles lack these features. As of 2015, only 15 percent of commercial trucks were outfitted with these safety features. Many trucks on the road are over a decade old, meaning they were made long before the widespread adoption of these safety features.
“If anything, it’s more important that these advanced driver aids come standard on trucks than on cars,” says Jake Fisher, Consumer Report’s director of auto testing. “Tractor-trailer trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, and the consequences of a crash—no matter who is at fault—can be devastating.”
How safety features can prevent truck accidents
These advanced safety features are designed to prevent crashes and give drivers more awareness of their surroundings. Automatic emergency braking will first alert a driver to an impending crash and then automatically apply the brakes if the driver fails to take enough action. A forward collision warning system will also warn drivers, but will not automatically apply the brakes.
Commercial trucks do have some required safety features. Anti-Lock Brakes have been required since 1997 and electronic stability control has been required since August 2017. But more advanced warning systems, particularly blind-spot warning, would be beneficial in giving drivers extra awareness of their surroundings. They could mitigate the effects of fatigued driving and protect passenger vehicle drivers from trucks.
The adoption of additional safety features is growing, fortunately. According to SAFE’s report, 40 percent of commercial trucks could have FCW/crash-mitigation systems by 2020. Unfortunately, that number is unlikely to reach 100 percent in the next decade without government mandates. There is a lot of pushback from trucking groups and truckers themselves, who don’t believe technology is any replacement for good driving. Some drivers have conceded that blind-spot monitoring would be the most helpful feature, but it is not always included in safety systems.
Until these safety features become more commonplace, it is important for passenger-vehicle drivers to understand the limitations of large trucks. The added weight, for instance, means it can take 40 percent longer for them to stop. In order to compensate for these limitations, truck drivers should be trained and prepared to handle large commercial vehicles with care.