Can Technology Make On-The-Road Trucking Safer?

April 11, 2019

Speed, driver impairment, fatigue, sleep apnea, and driver distraction are the most common causes of commercial trucking accidents. Imagine driving in a torrential downpour as a commercial truck driver with limited visibility is about to make a left hand turn.  The road looks to be clear, so the driver begins to take their foot off the break to make the turn when a warning light flashes, and the truck does not move. A pedestrian has crossed just in front of the truck, and because of new sensor technology known as the automatic emergency breaking system, the truck was able to alert the driver of the pedestrian.  

Technology has made significant progress in the commercial trucking industry.  Some examples of the successful safety features recently adopted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) include roll safety control, under-ride trailer guards, and electronic logging devices. However, the number of commercial trucking accidents are still concerning, and more technology could play an important role in making our roads safer.

The automatic emergency breaking system is one of several new technology opportunities in research development.  Air disk brakes allow trucks to stop faster and lane departure warning systems alert the driver when drifting out of their lane. Technologies currently being tested under various pilot projects include Adaptive Cruise Control, Electronic and Roll Stability Control, and Speed Limiters.

Aside from implementing the technology onto the trucks directly, recent advances in wearable technology may provide a number of safety benefits in the trucking industry. Monitoring the driver’s health can help prevent accidents and communicate information back to the trucking companies.

  • Monitoring Fatigue: Headsets and hats equipped with biometric sensors can monitor for signs of driver fatigue, which is a major safety concern in the industry due to long hours and stressful conditions.
  • Driving Alerts and Navigation Assistance: Using sounds through a smart watch to notify the driver of vehicles in blind spots, an upcoming turn, or exceeding the speed limit. Smart watches can also set reminders of driving hours and alert break times to guarantee compliance with federal safety regulations.
  • Detecting Health Problems: Fitness related sensors in smartwatches and headbands can collect vital signs and overall activity levels to detect signs of cardiac arrest or the need for medical attention.
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