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AAA Says Safe Truck Technology Exists, But Will Fleets Invest?

In 2015, there were more than 400,000 large commercial truck crashes on American roads, injuring about 116,000 people and killing more than 4,000. This marked an increase of four percent from 2014, which is not good news for American drivers. But, some good news has come from the AAA Foundation, which released a study last year on the benefits of adding safety technology to large trucks. The report, entitled Leveraging Large Truck Technology and Engineering to Realize Safety Gains, did a cost-benefit analysis of four types of advanced truck technology that could have the potential to prevent about 63,000 crashes per year.

The technologies in question are:

  • Lane departure warning systems — To guard against lateral drift, these vision-based, in-vehicle electronic systems warn the driver if the vehicle deviates or is about to unintentionally deviate outside the lane line. AAA estimates that equipping all commercial trucks would prevent up to 6,372 crashes, 1,342 injuries and 115 deaths each year. Costs would range from $301 to $2,000 per vehicle.
  • Automatic emergency braking — This system employs a forward-looking sensor(s), driver alerts, and automatic vehicle braking to reduce the incidence of rear-end collisions. AAA suggests industry-wide adoption could prevent up to 5,294 crashes, 2,753 injuries and 55 deaths each year, at a cost of $2,400 to $2,600 per vehicle.
  • Air disc brakes — This alternative to the traditional drum brake is popular in Europe and has been shown to decrease stopping distance and require less maintenance. Air disc brakes could prevent up to 2,411 crashes, 1,447 injuries and 37 deaths each year. The cost to equip all a big-rig’s axels is estimated to be about $1,300.
  • Video-based onboard safety monitoring — This in-vehicle video technology records the environment surrounding the vehicle as well as the driver’s behavior. AAA estimates adoption of this technology could prevent as many as 63,000 crashes, 17,733 injuries and 293 deaths each year. Costs are estimated to be $300 to $750 to start, with monthly service fees of $20 to $60 per vehicle.

The report concludes that for the lane departure warning and the onboard safety monitoring systems, the benefits to society outweigh the costs, while the benefits of the automatic braking and air disc brakes could outweigh the costs. But will the trucking industry adopt the technology?

Unfortunately, this is an industry that too often flouts the law, up to the point of putting trucks back on the road after a failed brake inspection. Change may not come until insurance companies start putting economic pressure on fleets that fail to adopt enhanced safety technology, or until the Congress or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration creates new requirements.

The Giatras Law Firm, PLLC represents clients injured in commercial trucking accidents throughout West Virginia. If you’ve been hurt, call us for a free consultation, or contact our Charleston office online.