In many ways, trucking is an old-fashioned industry, though minor innovations such as refrigerated shipping and GPS have enabled it to adapt over the years. With the rise of vehicle-integrated technology, however, the trucking industry may finally be able to step up its game and prevent accidents before they happen, which will make the work that much safer for long-haul truckers and those who share the road with them.
Truck accidents tend to be especially dangerous due to the size of the vehicles involved, so it’s all the more vital that the tech industry is working with commercial transport to bring new tools to the field. The following three innovations, which may already be operating in a truck cab on your local freeway, are just the beginning.
Asleep At The Wheel
One of the greatest dangers for truckers who have to travel long distances is falling asleep, which typically occurs when a driver stays on the road for an excessive period of time. In one survey, 20% of long-haul truckers reported falling asleep on the road during the past 30 days, so driver fatigue is a serious problem.
[pullquote]Though industry regulations aim to reduce the risk of overtired drivers, a more immediate and fail-safe solution has been necessary to keep everyone safe.[/pullquote] Many trucks are now fitted with a fatigue-monitoring system that analyzes the driver’s blinking patterns to determine if he or she is about to fall asleep.
If the fatigue monitoring system detects a tired driver, an alarm goes off, the seat vibrates, and a voice announces “eyes on the road.” For truckers, this can be a warning to pull over and get some rest, even for just a short nap.
When trucking companies pair this innovation with their own computer system, they can adjust delivery times and routes to adapt to delays.
Distracted driving is another common factor in trucking incidents — and car collisions in general. But when you’re operating an 18-wheeler, even a moment’s distraction can be deadly.
One tool, the SmartDrive platform, uses inward-facing cameras to identify signs of distraction and has proven to be effective in reducing such behaviors. Though some truckers have been hesitant to allow a camera inside their cab, such cameras can also establish a driver’s innocence in the event of a crash.
This can be a powerful incentive for drivers to allow such observation.
Sense And Assist
Many of the tools that can be used to make trucking safer are also at work in our private vehicles today. Technology like lane keep assist and park assist, adaptive cruise control, and collision warning can all help truckers drive more safely, especially when visibility is limited.
Since truckers have to deal with unusually large blind spots compared to the average vehicle driver, these tools make more of a difference than they would on a standard car or pickup.
We’re still ways from self-driving cars, but many hope that the advent of such technology on the road will bring the ultimate change to the trucking industry: completely safe, self-driving big trucks that aren’t subject to fatigue, distraction, or blind spots.
It may take a few more years, but that day should come. Until then, trucking can still take steps to become a safer industry.
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