Safety has been a core value for Volvo since the company was founded by Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson in 1927 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
When establishing their company, Gabrielsson and Larson decreed: “Safety is, and must always be, the basic principal for all engineering design.”
Volvo’s first car left the factory in April of that year. The first truck and bus were produced a year later.
In 1969, Volvo Trucks created its own Accident Research Team, and has built up a unique and comprehensive database of how accidents involving trucks take place.
The team is prepared round-the-clock to go to accident sites involving Volvo trucks where a driver and/or passenger is injured within a 60+ mile radius of the company’s headquarters in Gothenburg.
Determining the cause of truck crashes can provide key information for future accident prevention, Carl Johan Almqvist, traffic and product safety director for Volvo Trucks told me in an exclusive interview at the company’s facility in Gothenburg. “If we can figure out why accidents happen we can stop them.”
All of Volvo Trucks’ safety improvements build on detailed knowledge of how accidents happen and how injuries are caused, he explained. This knowledge comes from Volvo Trucks’ Accident Research Team.
The data and insight collected into the causes of accidents and injuries - and what can be done to prevent them - is not only used for development of preventive safety measures, but also for development of safety features in a truck designed to minimize injuries in accidents.
Almqvist noted that Volvo Trucks is the world leader in both active and passive safety, continuously providing the trucking industry with new technologies and systems that improve traffic safety. Some examples: the three-point safety belt, Driver Alert Support and factory-fitted alcolocks.
The Driver Alert Support is a system that monitors and alerts the driver if he becomes tired.
Alcolocks, or alcohol interlocks, are automatic control systems designed to prevent driving while under the influence of alcohol. They require the driver to blow into an in-vehicle breathalyzer before starting the ignition. The alcolock can be set at different levels and limits.
In recent years, Volvo Trucks has also launched intelligent safety systems with the potential to prevent accidents from happening in the first place.
It bears mentioning that in the U.S., since 2005, all Volvo Trucks’ highway tractors have come with Volvo Enhanced Stability Technology (VEST) as standard equipment.
The VEST is also standard on and the company’s VHD truck with mixer body.
VEST is a full electronic stability program that assists the driver in maintaining control during emergency maneuvers and braking events, dramatically reducing the likelihood of a rollover or jackknife.
It was developed by Volvo in partnership with Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems.
From its safety and accident research, Volvo Trucks has determined that 90 percent of truck-car accidents are attributable to the human factor, 30 percent to the environment and 10 percent are vehicle related.
The total is more than 100 percent because these accidents typically involve more than one factor, said Almqvist.
“The human factor is the starting point for the research,” he said, “because the driver is always responsible.”
Volvo Trucks’ Safety Vision is zero accidents, Almqvist pointed out. “The vision of zero accidents is a way of thinking: ‘I don’t want to be involved in an accident.’
“We are committed to always strive towards zero accidents, but we are also aware of the fact that most accidents involve factors that are out of our control,” he continued. “That is why Volvo Trucks cooperates with users, authorities, scientists and other stakeholders in society who want to create a safer world.”