Advances in trucking technology, automation and safety features are proving to be successful tools in attracting new drivers to the industry, which helps alleviate the driver shortage.
During a roundtable hosted by the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee on Capitol Hill, trucking company and equipment manufacturer executives told members of Congress that the industry has adopted driver-assist systems and Class 8 tractors with state-of-the-art communication, which is encouraging new drivers to enter the industry.
Susan Alt, senior vice president of public affairs with Volvo Group North America, told lawmakers the modernization of the industry is capturing younger drivers, improving operating conditions and increasing home time. “Some of the technology helps with better planning, better load optimization and better routing. These technologies are all about attracting the driver,” Alt said.
Although driver turnover for the entire trucking industry remains high, private fleets experienced a turnover rate of 15.2 percent in 2017, the National Private Truck Council reported. Private fleets tend to emphasize safety, with many adopting safety technology voluntarily. According to NPTC’s benchmarking survey report, each safety technology covered in the report showed single-digit gains year over year.
The majority of private fleets, nearly 70 percent, have automatic transmissions. More than 60 percent monitor speeds. More than 50 percent have air disc brakes and electronic stability control; 40 percent have adaptive cruise control. More than 30 percent utilize lane departure warning systems and nearly 30 percent have collision warning systems. A smaller number, less than 10 percent, utilize backup cameras.
Penske Truck Leasing can work with customers to outline the safety technology that best meets their needs.
Penske Truck Leasing offers a variety of new technologies and safety systems, such as lane departure warning systems, electronic stability control, video monitoring systems, automatic braking and air disc brakes.
Collision mitigation systems come standard on Penske Truck Leasing’s rental tractors equipment. The latest versions of collision mitigation technology use a camera positioned on the front of the vehicle as well as radar. The two technologies work together and provide more active brake assistance and warnings, such as lane departure and blind spot detection. In the past, the systems relied solely on radar.
A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded that this type of technology has the potential to prevent up to 63,000 truck-related accidents each year.
A lane departure warning system is a mechanism designed to warn the driver when the vehicle begins to move out of its lane (unless a turn signal is on in that direction). According to the AAA study, lane departure warning systems could potentially avert up to 6,372 crashes, prevent 1,342 injuries and eliminate 115 deaths per year.
This technology works to minimize rollovers and crashes involving loss of control, which NHTSA said are responsible for 304 fatalities and 2,738 injuries on average each year. If the systems detect a vehicle is reaching its critical stability threshold, the technology kicks in and automatically reduces engine torque, applies the engine brake and activates the necessary wheel-end brakes, which reduces the likelihood of a rollover, jackknife or loss of control.
Designed to both monitor and improve the driving behavior of truck drivers, video monitoring systems can prevent as many as 63,000 crashes, 17,733 injuries and 293 deaths each year, according to the AAA report. The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that private fleets deploy video system recorder technology to monitor drivers, saying the systems are a proactive tool to identify and reduce risky driving behavior, such as speeding, distracted driving or drowsy driving. NTSB also said onboard video systems can provide valuable information for evaluating crashes. The systems can record video either continuously or as the result of a triggering event.
Automatic braking is safety technology that spontaneously activates the vehicle’s brake system when sensors monitor the presence of vehicles ahead and around the vehicle or detect any situation where there’s an impending collision. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, automatic braking, or brake assist, is an integral component of crash avoidance technology. AAA states that emergency braking can prevent up to 5,294 crashes, 2,753 injuries and 55 deaths per year.
Designed to improve the stopping distance of a vehicle, air disc brakes can prevent up to 2,411 crashes, 1,447 injuries and 37 deaths each year, according to the AAA study.