There have been some great leaps forward in the past 10 years in safety systems and safety technology available to the trucking industry. The aim of the Safety Drive Day, organised by the Victorian Transport Association (VTA), was to improve the awareness of people involved in the industry – operators, regulators and other stakeholders – of the importance of safety.
The event was also an opportunity to showcase the kind of sophisticated safety technology that can be specified on heavy vehicles on our roads. Major truck manufacturers also demonstrated the efforts they have been making to improve the safety systems available in trucks and gave attendees a review of the future possibilities which will become available in trucks.
The event was divided into three sections. The static displays saw a wide variety of suppliers of trucks, training, safety systems and regulators showing their wares and taking the time to engage with visitors about all aspects of the subject of safety in the modern trucking industry. The demonstration area saw high-tech safety systems demonstrated in real-life situations on a number of different vehicles, as well as some of the latest high productivity vehicles that have hit the road.
Meanwhile, out on the track, five different truck manufacturers were taking a constant flow of visitors around the track in a variety of trucks demonstrating safety systems and giving visitors a taste of what these new systems can bring to the party, in terms of safety. Each manufacturer concentrated on a different area of expertise to enable the visitor to get a real hands-on feel of what modern high-tech trucking is all about.
The event also featured a session where some of the key aspects of the drive for improved safety were discussed by stakeholders from the industry and truck technology experts. This was an opportunity for attendees to get a feel for the overall picture and hear the truck industry discuss their common goal: moving towards safer vehicles. The event also featured a dinner event during the evening with a keynote address made by well-known safety campaigner Lindsay Fox.
Statistical analysis of the trucks in Australia today demonstrated how long it will be until the latest safety systems on trucks will be the norm in the truck fleet. Many of the trucks on Australian roads date from the era before any form of exhaust emission control came into play and when electronic systems on board any truck were unheard-of.
“I put it to you that the Australian truck fleet is too old,” said Truck Industry Council Chief Technical Officer, Simon Humphries. “As of March 31, 2010 the average age of all trucks registered in Australia is nearly 14 years. The latest safety features and the latest environmental measures are not being introduced across a broad spectrum of the industry as they are in other markets.
“At the same time as there has been growth in big trucks, there’s also been a downward trend in the accident statistics. The trend is in the right direction, but is it enough? We still have around 200 fatal accidents every year involving heavy trucks. That’s 200 deaths which could be avoided, in the future, using a combination of safer trucks, safer operating practices and safer infrastructure. We all have to play our part.”
Mercedes Benz had a group of trucks and cars out on the track demonstrating their safety systems. The radar systems are constantly monitoring the road in front of the truck and will automatically engage engine braking and service braking systems, including engaging the emergency braking system, if a vehicle in front of the truck is decelerating swiftly. If the object in front of the truck is stationary the truck will be slowed but not brought to a complete halt.
Hino was demonstrating the advantages of its hybrid driveline to visitors. This system uses an electric motor which replaces the fly wheel assembly at the rear of the engine. This system stores energy in a nickel metal hydride battery when the vehicle slows down and then reintroduces this energy into the driveline when the driver presses the accelerator pedal. The system also turns off the engine when stationary, in situations like traffic lights, saving fuel. The electric generator will automatically restart the engine when the driver chooses to pull away.
Scania Product Engineer, Ian Butler added, “What the Electronic Braking System gives us is better matching of braking between truck and trailer. The system can do automatic load calculations to ensure you get the same retardation, regardless of the load, with the same amount of driver input. For the stability program, the truck is using a sensor mounted on the chassis to measure yaw plus a steering wheel angle sensor. If it recognises the truck is not moving in the correct way and is not travelling in a direction, towards which the driver has steered, the system will intervene and use the braking system. It may apply the trailer brake and the front wheel brake, in the event of something like a jackknife, to bring the vehicle back on course.”
Kenworth contributed to the alphabet soup of abbreviations and acronyms that were being talked about by all of the truck manufacturers, by speaking about and demonstrating its own new safety system, EBSS. As a North American style truck manufacturer, Kenworth has not normally been associated with safety system related events like the VTA Safety Day. In the past, the European manufacturers have dominated the safety agenda.
By developing its own brand of safety system, Kenworth is demonstrating its intention, as part of the global Paccar brand, to address the safety needs of the modern trucking industry and enabling buyers of all styles of truck the opportunity to invest in improved safety outcomes from their vehicles.
“EBSS is a suite of safety functions designed here in Australia to give, predominantly, stability control and the various functions which ride on the back of that,” said Kenworth New Product Manager, Brad May. “The brake system is all about brake by wire, whereas the traditional architecture for an American truck is to have a standard pneumatic system. This system utilises the ABS system and makes decisions based on the information provided to control things like engine power and or brakeing to the various axles and restore stability. It’s a different way to go around achieving the same result as the European systems.”
Paccar personnel driving around the test track were also demonstrating the Optalert anti fatigue system. This uses a standard pair of sunglasses on which are mounted miniature cameras monitoring the driver’s fatigue levels. By measuring the drivers rate and duration of blinking the system can alert the driver at the first signs of fatigue. The system constantly monitors the driver and the system provides an ongoing fatigue rating for the driver as they go through their working day.
Carl Johan Almqvist, Traffic and Product Safety Director, Volvo Truck Sweden, said “The introduction of sophisticated braking systems has done a lot to improve the safety of trucks in Europe. When you’re working with a combination of a number of trailers you are in a situation where all of the brakes are working together. It can cause a lot of very serious accidents, if one part of the combination isn’t doing its job.
“Lane Change Support is something we have on our trucks. It helps with one of those fairly common accidents. We train truck drivers to be very careful when they are changing lanes. However, the problem is the car by their side, the truck driver is very aware this is a difficult situation but the car driver is totally unaware of this. They believe the truck can see them. So we have come up with a system with a radar which comes on when you put on the blinker. It looks to the side and if it detects something is in the blindspot, it will give the driver a warning.”
At the end of the day Linfox boss, Lindsay Fox put the use of safety systems into perspective, looking at the issue from a truck owner’s and truck driver’s point of view. He has become an advocate of a number of safety measures and had just returned from another visit to speak to Federal Transport Minister Albanese in Canberra.
“Safety issues are paramount if you want to have a safe and successful industry,” said Mr Fox at the Safety Drive Day Dinner. “The safety element also has a lot to do with the income you are providing. If you can’t make your money with the rates and you have to work outside of the law to achieve it, somebody has to be responsible. This issue has never really been addressed. The reality is, the honest Aussie battler who buys a truck is up against it to survive from day one. Competition is fine but only up to the point where it becomes detrimental to do the safety of the people who are part and parcel of this industry.
“We really need a black box in the cab of every truck. When you look at an airplane crash the first thing they do is go to the black box to find out what caused the accident. We don’t know how many accidents have just been through fatigue or heart failure, or speed – we don’t have a record. These things normally happen late at night and someone just runs off the road. If you had an on board computer, the first thing you would do is pull it out and look at it. Then you have an accurate record of the event.
“Safety starts with you, so when you get home, sit down and do an analysis of why that person ran off the road or how someone was killed in a truck accident. At Linfox, we lose three or four people a year and I want my legacy to be that I have been responsible for saving those three or four lives over the rest of my time on this earth. Then I have repaid the industry for what it has done for me.”