Let’s get the obvious, and most easily answered, question out of the way: Do advanced radar- and camera-based collision mitigation systems work?
These systems are reducing both the severity of accidents and the accidents themselves. WABCO reported that its OnGuard collision mitigation technology has reduced rear-end accidents by up to 87%, according to Jon Morrison, president of WABCO Americas.
Additionally, Fred Andersky, director of government and industry affairs, and director of customer solutions, controls for Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, said that a major fleet and Bendix customer reported as high as a 70% reduction in the number of rear-end collisions they were experiencing, as well as a 70% reduction in accident severity when an incident did occur.
In terms of overall industry numbers, Wade Long, director of product marketing for Volvo Trucks North America, pointed to FMCSA and NHTSA data that showed that collision mitigation systems can help reduce collisions. A June 2016 report issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association entitled “Field Study of Heavy-Vehicle Crash Avoidance Systems,” drew the following conclusions:
“This study sampled 6,000 collision avoidance systems [CAS] activations from over three million miles and 110,000 hours of naturalistic data in order to evaluate the reliability of those activations. No sampled activations were associated with collisions, and companies did not report any rear-end collisions involving the vehicles in the study…. Overall, CAS technologies show potential for significant safety benefits for commercial vehicle drivers.”
[Editor’s note: It’s important to clarify that these figures are based on rear-end collisions in which the forward-collision warning and active braking systems engage under normal driving conditions on a straight stretch of road.]
Evidence of the value of collision mitigation systems—Bendix Wingman, Detroit Assurance, WABCO OnGuard and Volvo’s Active Driver Assist—can be seen in the rapid adoption rates. In 2013, only 8% to 10% of heavy-duty trucks had collision avoidance systems, according to WABCO figures. Today, Kelly Gedert, manager of powertrain and components marketing for Daimler Trucks North America, said that collision mitigation systems were installed in approximately 50% of Freightliner Cascadias in 2016 (with that number split down the middle in terms of Detroit and WABCO brands). As for the overall market, Volvo stated that more than 30% of on-highway tractors have built in collision mitigation systems. Bendix estimates that 25% of Class 6, 7 and 8 air-braked tractors and single-unit trucks built in 2016 were equipped with a collision mitigation technology.
Fleet Equipment polled the fleets on its Editorial Advisory board, and all of them have at least some, if not many, trucks that employ collision mitigation systems. For those of you who haven’t given collision mitigation a look, let’s dive into how you can calculate your fleet’s ROI on the investment. And for those of you who currently spec the systems, we’ll hop into our time travel truck to take a look at the future evolution of collision mitigation.
The nuts and bolts of dollars and cents
To start, if you haven’t been in a truck during a collision mitigation system (CMS) demonstration—this is the first thing you should do. There’s no substitute for adrenaline flooding your veins as a vehicle cuts you off and slams on its breaks. Panic grips you. You swear and clench the steering wheel, bracing yourself, and then the CMS takes over, the brakes engage, and the accident you felt was certain doesn’t happen. You take a deep breath and give yourself a moment to stop your hands from shaking. Today is going to be a good day, thanks to the CMS.
“Once a fleet has seen the technology in action at a demo and talked with some other fleets, I’d suggest adding a few trucks to their operation and gauge both how the technology helps their drivers mitigate crashes on the road and how it is impacting their costs,” Andersky said. “I don’t think we’d be seeing the growth we’ve seen in this technology if it wasn’t effective in helping drivers to mitigate rear-end collisions, and delivering a solid ROI.”
Though the equipment makeup of every fleet is different, there are still a number of metrics that any fleet can track to prove CMS ROI. Here are a few to start with:
• Accident prevention statistics from trucks using collision mitigation systems;
• accident-related maintenance costs reduction;
• vehicle lifecycle costs;
• weight reduction, fuel efficiency, and asset utilization metrics;
• medical costs;
• lawsuits and fines; and
• impact on your CSA score.
Not to mention any lost business resulting from crash situations.
“Understanding the return on investment begins with understanding how mitigating or avoiding an accident will save a fleet money,” Gedert said. “We’re in a unique time when the collision mitigation technology is being adopted in the trucking industry at the same time as the passenger car industry. Regulations are driving us toward CMS adoption, and so our message to fleets is that you should get on board with collision mitigation sooner than later—because it’s coming.”
Additionally, many CMS can provide data that shows how your drivers are operating your vehicles. WABCO’s ProView fleet performance management system includes advanced analytics that identify and capture risks in real-time via on-board systems and sensors that trigger camera recordings, which are then offloaded to a managed service that scores and prioritizes those recordings for the fleet.
The SafetyDirect by Bendix CVS web portal links to onboard safety technologies that wirelessly and automatically transmit real-time driver performance data and event-based information, including video, that can assist driver training and further improve safety fleet-wide.
These programs provide protection in not-at-fault collisions, and help prevent collisions by identifying the highest risks and prescribing action through driver coaching.
Spec all the fuel-efficient, integrated equipment you want, but if you don’t have a ready pool of worthy drivers to pilot your rigs, you’re out of luck. Recruiting and retaining drivers is an issue that even today’s most equipment-focused fleet manager has to deal with. And just as your engine of choice is paired to an integrated transmission, so too are today’s cabs and controls paired to the drivers. A CMS plays a role in driver training and fuel efficiency, in addition to safety.
“What’s amazing is sitting on driver recruiting meetings at trucking institutes and the soon-to-be CDL-licensed drivers know to ask about collision mitigation systems. It’s definitely a changing market,” Gedert said. As for established drivers, Gedert said that CMS systems are winning them over in the same way that automated-manual transmissions have done.
“Some drivers were apprehensive of this new technology in the beginning, but are now requesting it,” she said. “If you remember five years ago, we were going through these same driver apprehension conversations with an automated manual transmission when we were talking DT12 [Detroit’s automated-manual transmission]. We’re kind of going through that same learning curve with CMS systems.”
Driver training plays a key role in the use of CMS. And that’s not just according to the OEMs. Fleet Equipment’s Editorial Advisory Board cited driver training as the number one driving force behind their adoption.
“Fleets should remember that these are driver assistance systems, not driver replacement systems,” Bendix’s Andersky said. “A skilled driver practicing safe driving habits and participating in comprehensive driver training is a key factor in a fleet’s safety equation. Also, fleets need to consider these technologies in context with other variables that make up their fleet safety equation.”
“We have also seen fleets add collision mitigation systems to trucks to improve driver performance,” Volvo’s Long said. “For example, many drivers do not know the average stopping distance for a loaded tractor-trailer traveling at 55 MPH [in ideal conditions] is 196 ft. Collision mitigation systems assist drivers in maintaining the correct following distance.”
Gedert explained that with Detroit Assurance partial and full active braking occurrences can be transmitted through telematics providing fleets with information that can help improve driver performance. Additionally, Detroit Assurance 4.0, which is available on the New Cascadia, has tailgate warnings if the truck is following too close to the vehicle ahead of it.
“If a driver is following the vehicle ahead of them too closely, it gives a visual tailgate warning not only in the instrument cluster,” she explained, “but has the ability to report that back to the fleet manager as well.”
Andersky also recommended that fleets get feedback from their drivers to ensure that the drivers understand the technology—both its capabilities and its limitations—that is being added to their vehicles.
In terms of fuel efficiency, CMS systems depend on adaptive cruise control systems, a radar-based system that maintains a pre-set speed and a safe distance to the vehicle ahead, helps to level the fuel efficiency bell curve in the same way that automated manual transmissions do.
“Collision mitigation systems never get tired and are always alert,” Gedert said. “Fleets want better fuel economy and want their drivers to drive for better fuel economy by utilizing adaptive cruise control. It’s one of the ways for drivers to take the guesswork out of being a fuel-economy-conscious driver.”
“When we introduced Wingman Active Cruise with Braking [ACB] in 2009, we found fleets actually saw a fuel economy improvement because they felt more comfortable with their drivers using cruise control as the adaptive cruise control helped the driver to maintain a safe following distance,” Andersky said. “These fuel economy improvements ranged from about 5% to as high as 15%, depending on the fleet’s operational profile and time spent in cruise control.”