Take command of Fleet Risk Management

Approaches for reducing accident cost and frequency

Vehicle safety systems are distinguished by those systems that just warn - such as lane departure warning and forward collision warning, and those that provide warning with active interventions, explains Fred Andersky, marketing director - Controls Group, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems. Bendix develops and supplies leading-edge active safety technologies, air brake charging and control systems and components for medium and heavy duty trucks, tractors, trailers, buses and other commercial vehicles throughout North America.

Lane departure warning can indirectly prevent most any crash caused by drowsiness and or distraction, says Bill Patrolia, director of North American Truck Sales, Iteris, a traffic management company focused on the application and development of advanced technologies that reduce traffic congestion, minimize the environmental impact of traffic congestion and improve the safety of surface transportation systems infrastructure. A few early warnings can "nudge" a driver to get off the road and take a break.

Forward collision warning systems are beneficial because warning time is critical in avoiding rear-end collisions, and "a fraction-of-a-second warning could make all the difference," Patrolia says. He references a Daimler study that showed 0.5 seconds can prevent 60 percent of these accidents; 1 second could prevent 90 percent.

Systems that supply warnings and active interventions, such as collision mitigation systems and stability systems, deliver both warnings and active interventions to help drivers avoid accidents, says Andersky of Bendix.

"There is a difference in stability systems," he points out, "and this can impact the full value that fleets may receive in terms of helping to reduce risk in their operations or delivering an acceptable return on investment."

ESP/ESC (electronic stability program/electronic stability control) or "full stability" systems – These are designed to help drivers mitigate rollover and loss-of-control situations on a dry, wet, snow or ice-covered roadways. "Often a loss-of-control situation results in a rollover," notes Andersky, "so helping drivers to potentially mitigate the initial loss-of-control may, therefore, help reduce rollovers."

RSP/RSC (roll stability program/roll stability control) or "roll stability" systems - These are designed to help mitigate rollovers - typically on dry surfaces.

Andersky cites a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released in October 2009 that found full stability (ESP/ESC) technology would help reduce more accidents, fatalities and injuries than roll-only systems on combination vehicles.

"Keep in mind, however, that no commercial vehicle safety system replaces the most important safety components of all - a skilled, alert professional driver exercising safe driving habits, as well as continuous, comprehensive driver training," he emphasizes.

"Proper vehicle maintenance is also important - especially involving the braking system and tires," adds Andersky. "When the driver, or active safety system, needs to intervene, typically a properly maintained vehicle is going to perform better than one that is not."

The key for fleets regarding safety technologies and risk management, however, really ties to understanding how the safety technology helps drivers mitigate accidents, he concludes. In answering this question, there are two aspects to consider: how does the system aid the driver in the field to help him or her avoid accidents, and how does the system help/equip the fleet to better train their drivers to avoid accidents?

Another aspect to fleet risk management is having accident reporting procedures. These "are critical in determining the root cause of an accident and will help determine how to prevent the same type of accident from happening again," says Penske Logistics' Stone.

"In the unfortunate event of accidents, reporting is critical to understanding and potentially reducing legal liability," Steere of GreenRoad adds. "The more insights you have into the cause of accidents - road conditions, poor traffic design, high-risk driver maneuver, etc., - the better."

It is helpful to be able to recreate the accident with real-time data from the vehicle, he says. What was the driver's speed? Was the driver making a high-risk compound maneuver like accelerating into a turn? Have other drivers had difficulty in the same location? "By answering these types of questions," he says, "you can determine something far more valuable than just who is at fault: how to permanently prevent future accidents."

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