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UPS adopts innovative safety features for their fleets

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Managing Editor of Fleet Equipment Magazine

UPS, which operates one of the nation’s largest commercial trucking fleets, is making collision mitigation technology standard equipment on on all of its new Class 8 trucks. The company plans on ordering more than 2,600 new Class 8 tractors in 2015 that will feature Bendix accident mitigation technology, which alerts drivers to moving and stationary objects in front of the tractor and moving objects surrounding the vehicle.

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The collision mitigation systems on UPS’s new Class 8 tractors, which were developed by Bendix LLC, feature lane departure warnings, electronic stability control and anti-lock air disc brakes. The company has introduced them in a test run to a few of its trucks, and is now ready to make the features standard. The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that all passenger and commercial vehicles use this technology.

“Safety is of the utmost importance to UPS. We’re investing in technology that provides UPS drivers with opportunities to increase visibility of their surroundings in constantly changing environments,” said Randy Stashick, president of engineering for UPS. “The safety benefits of these technologies make incorporating them into UPS’s fleet the right thing to do for our employees and fellow motorists.”

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Bill Lazarsky, a UPS Circle of Honor driver who has driven without an accident for 36 years, has driven the full mitigation for a year as part of the initial test run and says he welcomes the new technology.

“I was apprehensive at first,” he says, “But I adjusted very quickly. And it’s a welcome addition to our fleet. This stuff is amazing.”

Lazarsky believes UPS’s commitment to safety will be a big help in the effort to retain and recruit drivers.

“If I was in the market–which I’m not–and I were to come upon two companies, and one had the safety features UPS has and the other didn’t, I would definitely go with them,” he said. “UPS is moving in the right direction for their people and for the safety of the public.”

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The new trucks have incorporated Bendix’s advanced wingman system, which includes anti-lock disc brakes that can come to a full stop from 55 MPH in just 100 ft. Stability control monitors the tractor trailer’s motions and, especially during turns and slick conditions, automatically distributes braking power to each wheel for a more precise control. The new trucks also feature adaptive cruise control, which maintains a constant distance behind the vehicle in front of the UPS tractor. With the adaptive cruise control turned on, the truck will automatically slow to avoid a collision. The trucks also feature automated manual transmission.

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The system provides alerts to drivers when they’re following a vehicle too closely, when there’s a stationary object in the path of the truck and when impact with another vehicle is likely.

Some of UPS’s Class 8 tractors that pull multiple trailers also use a telescoping t-dolly that automatically reduces the space between the trailers from 40 to 12 in. at highway speeds (45 MPH or more). Reducing the distance between the tandem trailers decreases buffeting, increases stability and improves fuel economy 2.5 to 3.5%.

“As a driver I will still be the most important safety feature,” said Paul Savill, UPS Freight driver and a captain for the American Trucking Association’s America’s Road team. “These Bendix safety features will be like another set of eyes and ears, and will be a welcome added safety tool.”

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“There may be one day where driverless vehicles are all we see on the highway,” Lazarsky added. “Technology is moving at a very rapid rate–it’s nice to be a part of the beginning of it.”

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