There is no substitute for a professional driver. We have added seat belts, and air bags to cars. Child safety seats secure infants and children and have saved lives. Anti Lock brakes help drivers control their vehicles in hard stops. Trucks have been equipped with modern anti rollover and collision mitigation technology. Yet, too many people are still dying on the roads. No matter what we engineer, accidents still happen. That doesn't mean that we should quit trying to improve safety technology. Improved technology does not mean we should lower driving standards. Choosing improved driver training does not make you anti technology. Choosing technology does not mean that you want to lower driver standards or training. The right goal is to make the highways as safe as possible. That requires technology and driver working together.

This year a truck ran into stopped traffic on I75 in Tennessee. Some reports claim that the trucker had been up for as many as 45 hours. He had been involved in an at fault accident the day before and refused a post accident drug test. I have not seen any reports of his truck having an ELD or a collision mitigation system. The trucking company was small and only had 6 trucks and 9 drivers. 6 people died in that accident. None of them were famous. No trucking organizations stood up to point out that the truck had no ELD or CMS.

It wasn't that long ago when a Wal Mart truck ran into traffic stopped for a construction delay. It has been reported that the trucker had been awake for as many as 28 hours. The 2011 truck was equipped with an ELD and a CMS. According to NTSB the truck was traveling at 65 MPH (in a 45 MPH construction zone) 15 seconds before the collision. It has been estimated that the actual impact was about 35 MPH. Reports are that the trucker was not in cruise control, limiting the effects of the CMS. Did the CMS in that truck brake hard just before the collision? Probably, we don't know. I think that it did. A big company was involved. A famous person was involved. One person died. It isn't called a collision avoidance system for a reason. The driver is the collision avoidance system. The collision avoidance system failed. Mitigating the collision from 65 to 35 is clearly not as good as avoiding the collision altogether. It is also not as bad as not mitigating it. Who knows how many people would have died if that collision had occurred at 65 MPH?

That third accident didn't happen. Every day traffic on interstate highways stops for different reasons, and thousands of trucks stop safely behind them. Professional drivers don't get noticed when we do our jobs the right way. If the first truck driven had a collision mitigation system, would lives have been saved? If the Wal Mart truck did not have CMS would more lives have been lost? We just don't know. My belief is that the answer is yes on both accounts.

Collision avoidance beats collision mitigation every time. We need to concentrate on training professional drivers. The industry has not done a good job of this. We have done an even worse job of training drivers how the new technology works. Every time a driver receives new technology, they should be trained on it.Safety, not politics or profits, should be the goal.

 

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Jeff Clark

Jeff Clark of Kewaunee, WI has been driving a truck for 24 years. He has been an owner operator for 11 years.

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