With the National Safety Council reporting an estimated 40,000 deaths a year caused by motor vehicles, there is no question that safety should be at the forefront of every driver’s mind.
Recently, PRECO attended a presentation during the 2017 Fleet Safety Conference on the effectiveness of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). Some studies showed that ADAS had significant impacts on improving safety and driver awareness, others stressed that ADAS technology is still in its infancy and improvement is needed.
Two Sides of The Same Safety Coin
One of the presenters, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, performed a study on heavy-vehicle crash avoidance systems (CAS). Using a fleet of 150 trucks as their test subjects, they managed to gather an impressive 85,000 hours and 2.5 million miles of data over their 15-month long study. The results of the study showed there were no meaningful reductions in the number of recorded alerts or changes in driver behaviors (including driver headways and break reaction times). Though the results were unexpected, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute is using this study as a guide to improve driver habits and safety awareness.
On the other end of the spectrum, Abe Stephenson, the Fleet and Administration Manager for Dish Network, presented their company results on driver behaviors for their pilot program. Not only did they record data from 11 service vans with 22 drivers, they also surveyed participating employees and provided training and coaching sessions with them. The results of the study showed initial doubts of the effectiveness from employees, who found the alerts to be a nuisance. However, the statistics showed a marked improvement in driver behavior, reduction in alerts sounded, reduction in accidents, and an increase in fuel economy. At the end of the study, they surveyed the same employees who were initially doubtful and found that they had experienced a change of heart, now referring to themselves as believers in the product.
Using Technology to Keep Drivers Safe
With each presentation, the heart of the matter was encompassed in one question asked by Debbie Hersman, President and CEO of the National Safety Council (NSC): “How do we keep drivers safe?” With their campaign to reduce the number of crashes to an idealistic zero, Hersman discussed not only the importance of integrating state of the art ADAS technology into fleet and passenger vehicles, but to increase driver safety training and education as well. Technology alone is not enough in accident prevention. Driver’s knowing their limitations when it comes to situations including fatigue, distractions (i.e. phone use when driving), stress, even sleep disorders is imperative to increase the effectiveness of safety on the road.
To help encourage companies to promote driver engagement in safety training, the NSC has released a Safe Driving Kit that is available to download from their website that includes everything from infographics to training videos. In addition, Hersman made an appeal to the importance of a healthy work environment in supporting fleet and company drivers, who perform much better when under less stress.
Working Together Towards a Safer Workforce
Studies show that the combination of ADAS, effective training initiatives, and supportive work environments significantly increase the safety of fleet drivers, decrease the number of accidents, resulting in a healthier economic impact on individual companies and, more importantly, lives saved from potentially deadly situations.
The information reported in the lectures at the Fleet Safety Conference provided insight into the importance of technology and ADAS integration into fleets. It also showed that the effectiveness of these products is dependent on relevant and impactful driver training. As a result, the safety of drivers everywhere can significantly improve, lives will be saved, and the economic sustainability of fleet dependent services will thrive.