The average commercial truck (also called a semi or 18-wheeler) weighs about 20-30 times more than the average personal-use vehicle. Therefore, when a collision occurs between a truck and a smaller vehicle, it is not likely to be a mere fender-bender. Even a rear-end collision, the most common type of car accident, is likely to be highly injurious or fatal to occupants of the smaller vehicle.
With this in mind, it stands to reason that any and all strategies should be considered to reduce the likelihood and severity of truck accidents. And according to a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, technology already exists that could achieve those goals effectively.
The IIHS study examined the effectiveness of two safety technologies that are already being offered by certain automakers. They include the forward collision warning system (which alerts the driver of crash risks ahead) and automatic emergency braking (which applies the brakes in response to a crash threat if the driver doesn’t react in time). The study specifically looked at the effect these features, when put in trucks, would have on crashes in which a truck rear ends another vehicle.
The results were very impressive. After studying about 2,000 crashes over a two-year period, researchers determined that forward collision warning systems can reduce truck crashes 44 percent, while automatic emergency braking can reduce crashes by 41 percent. Almost as importantly, when crashes did occur, vehicles equipped with either system were often traveling about 50 percent slower than they otherwise would have been, greatly reducing the severity of the crashes.
The American trucking industry tends to strongly object to any attempts at safety regulation. But in light of results as clear as these, regulators should strongly consider ignoring those objections in favor of public safety.
Truck accidents in the United States kill an average of about 4,000 people per year, with the vast majority of victims being occupants of smaller vehicles. If technology like this could significantly reduce crashes and make crashes more survivable when they do occur, the financial and logistical costs of mandating such technology pales in comparison to the benefits.