Collision avoidance: The best safety advancement since brakes

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May was a big month for me. The 15th was my second birthday. Pretty impressive that I’m writing this at only two years of age, right? That’s not right either.

Thirty years ago, my life took a serious turn on the 15th of May. There was a safety issue on a piece of farm equipment that I wasn’t aware of. It should’ve cost me my life, but my time was not up yet. Now I consider May 15 my second birthday, or second chance at life.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t always the most safety-conscious guy, but that was a product of the era. We just did what we had to do to get the job done. In trucking, like in farming, we drove no matter what, relying on our skills to survive.

I don’t know about others, but there was a certain misplaced pride in getting to the destination despite any known safety issues.

Funny thing is, almost dying changes your outlook on life, especially with regards to safety.

I’m thankful for our rigs today. They’re the safest, most fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly units ever built.

I especially love the braking systems. The stopping power is incredible. I’ve been down many a mountain in the past, gently massaging my rig so that I could make it safely to the bottom. Legs trembling, heartrate elevated, trying to balance between safety and my 100-mph dispatcher.

I’m not saying I fly down mountains today without a care in the world, but between my engine brakes that actually handle most of the braking and larger drums or disc brakes, it’s a totally different feel.

When it comes to improving safety, I can’t think of anything that’s had a bigger impact than the braking systems.

In a few years, I hope to be writing a column about something else that has had such a huge impact on safety. What could that be? There are some cool things out there like stability systems, lane keeping assist, and fatigue alerts but what really intrigues me is collision avoidance and adaptive cruise.

(Photo: Volvo Trucks North America)

It is already here. Imagine if all vehicles were to have that enabled. I’m talking about eliminating the tailgating option and racing up to the scene of your crash. When your vehicle makes it nearly impossible to run into the rear of somebody else’s. In an intersection, it would brake before you even realized a vehicle was running a red light. No weaving around, no road rage bumper cars. Why hasn’t this already been done? The technology is already here in some vehicles.

Ooh, but the cost! What if a sensor gets dirty? I’m talking a radar and camera-based system. One that can see even if the driver can’t.

I know there would be a backlash from drivers. The complaint I hear now is in heavy traffic the one who has it enabled gets further behind because others cut in front causing them to slow down further. That’s why I say it should be mandatory for all vehicles.

I’m willing to bet the traffic in Toronto would improve because a steadier pace of traffic would be maintained if everyone had this technology enabled.

This sounds a lot like autonomous vehicles, right? Yes and no. It is a similar technology but not quite to the same level. This technology can be applied easily to most existing vehicles.

I want people to continue to drive and get that experience, without the crashes. Leave behind the anger. Arrive at your destination happier, more relaxed and calmer.

It does baffle me that it hasn’t taken off yet. Countless lives could be saved in the Toronto area alone in one week. Insurance companies hate spending their money in payouts. Let’s get them on board.

In a few short years we could realistically have a game changer in implementing this.

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David Henry is a longhaul driver, Bell Let's Talk representative and creator/cohost of the Crazy Canuck Truckin podcast. His passion is mental health and presenting a better image for trucking to the public.

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  • We just purchased an SUV with adaptive cruise control. Our next truck will have this technology when delivered from the factory. The SUV is absolutely incredible to drive with the adaptive cruise control engaged.