Jury still out on aftermarket crash-avoidance systems

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 4/25/2014

The U.S. Government Accountability Office says only limited information is available on the potential for aftermarket crash-avoidance systems to reduce crashes. Truckers are interested in the findings because of federal proposals that seek to mandate various technologies for heavy commercial vehicles.

The GAO released its findings April 24 in a letter to U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., who commissioned the study. Mica chairs the House Subcommittee on Government Operations, part of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Focusing on crashes involving government fleet vehicles, the GAO review took into consideration nine studies and 170 articles related to collision avoidance. Federal government agencies operate approximately 650,000 vehicles at a cost of $4.4 billion. The GAO studied crash data, including costs associated with crashes involving the government fleets from 2008 through 2012.

Collision-avoidance technology may involve sensors, radar and cameras to issue warnings to a driver when certain types of collisions may be imminent, according to information provided in the report.

The GAO was unable to determine whether or not aftermarket collision-avoidance systems could actually have prevented crashes.

“We also found that limited information exists on the potential of aftermarket collision avoidance technologies to reduce vehicle accidents,” GAO researchers stated in their report.

“For example, our literature review yielded no studies of the costs and benefits of aftermarket collision avoidance technologies, and we were unable to verify any claims of benefits associated with the technologies.”

The GAO further stated, “… it was not possible to predict how many collisions might be avoided if the technologies were installed in a fleet of vehicles or whether investing in the technology would be cost-effective.”

According to the report, there were approximately 23,000 at-fault accidents by government vehicles between 2008 and 2012, at a cost of $53.6 million – an average cost of $2,332 per incident.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Secretary of Transportation provided the federal government response to the GAO.

In its comments, the DOT states that while information on aftermarket systems is indeed limited, “data do exist on the effectiveness of collision avoidance technologies that are factory-installed.”

Right now, a number of factory-installed systems are available on higher-priced vehicles, but markets are emerging in other vehicle classes.

The eyes of the trucking world continue to be on rulemakings in the federal pipeline that would make so-called safety systems mandatory, such as collision avoidance, stability control and the usual suspects – speed limiters and electronic logging devices.

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