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The Collision Avoidance System Conversation

According to a new statement released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), collision avoidance systems should be standard on all new commercial vehicles. In a Special Investigation Report, they outline how these systems can prevent or mitigate the severity of rear-end collisions.

The report containing government accident statistics show that in 2012 rear-end crashes killed almost 1,700 people. Another 500,000 more were reported to be injured. Of these crashes, 80 percent might have been lessened in severity had a collision avoidance system been installed, according to the NTSB.

Inter-Agency Strife

In their report, the NTSB blamed another governmental organization, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), for failing to “develop performance standards for these technologies and require them in passenger and commercial vehicles, as well as a lack of incentives for manufacturers.”

The heavy nature of these accusations likely result from the NTSB having no ability to make its own regulations. It merely investigates crashes of commercial vehicles – whether by truck, train, or airplane – and makes recommendations to other agencies and industry groups.

NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart pointed out a common excuse, that the next generation of safety improvements are too close to make change now. “There will always be better technologies over the horizon,” he said. “We must be careful to avoid letting perfection become the enemy of good.”

Their final recommendations included making collision avoidance systems standard equipment in new vehicles and developing tests and standards that rate the performance of the collision avoidance systems themselves.

The Industry’s Take

Although major suppliers of safety technologies are glad to see the renewed attention on their products, they aren’t quick to advocate making them mandatory. They also make a point of referring to them as “collision mitigation” systems; they cannot promise they will prevent all accidents, but they can claim to reduce the severity of an accident.

But with the government already rolling out large numbers of new rules, only to roll them back under a different political regime, what are the hopes for a mandate? It looks like it may not even matter in the end.

While the NTSB tries to prod more regulation out of the government, it may be that trucking isn’t going to wait. According to Alan Korn, Advanced Brake Systems Integration Director for a major vehicle control supplier, “companies that are developing this type of product are not waiting for the NHTSA to come out with a rule. We’re responding to a demand from safety-minded fleets.”


The fact remains that fleets wouldn’t be buying these products if they didn’t see any return on their investments. Today’s safety-conscious fleet understands that the payback comes from reducing the severity of crashes and in some cases, preventing them.

How Do They Work?

Most systems currently available provide a warning of a potential collision. If for some reason the truck driver doesn’t respond, some systems provide active braking systems that take some of the energy out of the crash.

Generally they address collisions with objects in the same lane as the truck. A forward-looking radar-based system cuts through fog, rain and heavy snow. This presents an advantage when a truck is closing at a fast rate of speed under conditions that make it difficult to make out stationary objects.

Along with the visual comes an active component. Active braking and adaptive cruise control, when combined with the latest in long range radar technologies, can reduce rear-end collisions by as much as 87 percent.

Since OEMs offer the collision mitigation systems, they set the prices. Typical price ranges fluctuate between $2,500 and $6,000 depending on the volume. According to recent statistics, approximately 20 percent of Class 8 tractors are now sold with collision mitigation equipment.

Since these devices are so good at mitigating potential risk, expect to see them becoming more widespread even before the government can make new rules. After all, there’s nothing wrong with being safer.

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