Study of on-board safety systems admittedly skewed toward larger carriers

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 11/5/2013

A study measuring the effectiveness of roll stability control and lane-departure warning systems for trucks is admittedly “skewed toward larger, for-hire carriers” and does not represent the small-business component of the trucking industry, the study authors say. OOIDA commends the authors for their honesty, and believes on-board safety systems should be a choice, not a mandate.

“The dataset in the current study was skewed toward larger, for-hire carriers and may not fully represent the overall U.S. trucking population (there was only one private fleet),” study authors state in Onboard Safety Systems Effectiveness Evaluation Final Report, a document that accompanies an October 2013 technology brief issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The study compared trucks that have on-board safety systems with trucks that do not have on-board safety systems. Adding in available data on crashes, the analysis indicated a “strong positive safety benefit” for lane departure warning systems and roll stability control.

OOIDA says the decision to employ such technology should be up to those who own the trucks as opposed to a government mandate.

“Certainly, individual truck owners and fleets are free to make individual business decisions over whether these technologies fit their needs now or in the future,” said OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Ryan Bowley.

“One important thing that really jumped out was the report clearly says it’s focused on larger carriers and is really not focused on the trucking industry as a whole,” he said. “They’re not taking into account the cost for 90-plus percent of the trucking industry, which is small-business carriers. At least this one did admit that their work was not fully representative of the industry.”

Areas of concern in the report, according to OOIDA, are the lack of focus on the overall crashworthiness of truck cabs, and the fact that it does not address issues of entry-level driver training.

“This report highlights a number of cases and situations where these technologies are not even engaged or may be engaged but don’t prevent the accident,” said Bowley. “That’s where the protection of the trucker in the cab comes into play. Yet we hear silence from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the issue of occupant protection. Safety systems are not a one-for-one substitute for that.”

“We’re seeing a lot of reports out, from FMCSA or NHTSA, in regards to the benefits technology can provide, yet one area that doesn’t get the attention it needs has been driver training,” Bowley said. “Hopefully FMCSA’s decision to reboot the rulemaking on driver training will give folks a better view of what would really make the difference.”

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