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ITS Technologies: The Benefits and Challenges

On-Board Radar and Other Technologies: Freightliner was the first truck manufacturer to provide a collision warning system developed by Eaton VORAD Technologies. This radar-based collision warning sys...

On-Board Radar and Other Technologies: Freightliner was the first truck manufacturer to provide a collision warning system developed by Eaton VORAD Technologies. This radar-based collision warning system, EVT-200, includes a forward-looking sensor, as well as an optional side sensor to warn of obstacles in the driver’s blind spot. The system displays a color LED on the dashboard panel and emits audible warnings as well. According to safety experts, if drivers had one half a second additional warning time, 60 percent of all rear-end collisions could be prevented. Transport Besner of St. Nicholas, Que., was able to reduce at-fault accidents by 33.8 percent in the first year after the EVT-200 system was installed on its trucks.

Other ITS technologies being developed to prevent one vehicle from slamming into the rear of another include Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). This will not only detect a slower-moving vehicle in front, but it will also close the throttle and apply the brakes. Luxury car makes (Lexus, Mercedes) are making ACC available on some 2001 models. Still other technologies include roadside detection devices hooked up to variable-message signs that warn drivers of congestion ahead. Ontario’s Highway 401 through Toronto already has this technology installed.

Rollover-Warning: Several states (California, Washington, Texas) have installed rollover-warning signs that measure vehicle speed and flash a warning at any vehicle traveling above a speed judged to be safe at an intersection ramp. Ontario had one of these signs on Highway #11 near Gravenhurst up until a few years ago. But the problem with these “smart” signs is that the safe speed has to be set low enough to prevent trucks most prone to rollover from rolling over. The result is that the warning device flashes a warning at almost all vehicles on the ramp and drivers soon learn to ignore it. International Road Dynamics (IRD) in Saskatoon decided to develop an even smarter rollover warning system. The Capital Beltway around Washington D.C. has several off-ramps with a history of trucks rolling over – three of these ramps in particular had had ten rollovers between 1985 and 1990. So, after a feasibility study by the US Department of Transportation, IRD built and installed three new rollover-warning systems in 1993. These are far more sophisticated than the ones that just measure vehicle speed. They use weigh-in-motion scales embedded in the pavement and other sensors to measure weight, height, the type of truck configuration and the rate of deceleration. Using all this information, the computer in the system calculates a safe speed for each vehicle and only flashes a warning at those trucks exceeding this speed. Average truck speed, for those trucks given the warning lights, has dropped by 5-to-6 mph since the systems were installed. As far as is known, according to Rob Bushman at IRD, there have been no rollovers since the machines were installed. IRD has also built and installed two more of these rollover-warning systems in Pennsylvania and is planning another one in Georgia.

Speed-Warning Devices: Speed-warning devices are much like rollover-warning devices – they let drivers know when they are traveling too fast. For trucks, in places other than freeway ramps where they may roll over, the real need for speed-warning devices is on steep mountain grades. A simple device just detects vehicle speed and flashes a warning to all vehicles traveling over a certain speed. More sophisticated ones are much like the rollover-warning signs in that they take into account the vehicle weight and make a calculation for each individual truck. The most sophisticated such device in North America was installed by IRD in the westbound lanes of Interstate 70 just at the end of the Eisenhower Tunnel, west of Denver. West of this tunnel, there is a 10-mile downgrade with grades in the range of five-to-seven percent and there is an average of about 1,000 trucks a day making this descent. Many a novice driver has been caught unawares by this grade. Between 1995 and 1999 the two runaway ramps were used an amazing 106 times. Looking over an even longer period, 1990-1999, Colorado officials attribute 125 truck-related crashes to this downgrade. So, in 1997, IRD installed a series of weigh-in-motion devices and other sensors in the pavement and hooked the whole thing up to a variable-message sign. Any truck weighing more than 40,000 pounds is given a warning if it is traveling at a speed faster than the computer figures is safe.

Bruce Janson from the University of Colorado and David Judy from the Colorado Department of Transportation conducted an evaluation of this speed-warning device several years after it had been installed. Their findings: on days when the speed-warning signs were turned on, trucks over 40,000 pounds were decreasing their average speed by about five mph. That’s a significant decrease in a zone where truck maximum speed is posted at 30 mph.

Recorders (“black boxes”): The US Department of Transportation is considering making the use of black boxes in buses mandatory. Black boxes, like those on commercial airlines, record a number of vehicle functions (speed, use of brakes) and can be used in crash investigations to help determine exactly what happened just prior to a crash. While there are no serious plans to make the use of such black boxes mandatory on trucks, the idea has been kicked around and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (US Department of Transportation) is undertaking research on the idea. In Canada, Ontario and Qubec have agreed to test black boxes, although the main interest is to see if they can be used to tell enforcement officers if lift axles have been properly used and whether or not drivers have been obeying the hours-of-work rules. But, of course, once a black box has been installed, it can record a lot more than this so it rapidly could see a number of other uses such as post-crash investigations.

Truck News

Truck News

Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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