Safety in numbers
Mercedes-Benz has tested 1000 trucks in an attempt to cut serious crashes, writesGRAHAMSMITH
MODERN safety systems could cut the number of serious truck crashes by half. That’s the finding of an extensive test run in Europe by Mercedes-Benz.
The test was held using a fleet of 1000 Mercedes-Benz Actros semitrailers, half of which were fitted with the latest safety systems such as Lane Assist, Proximity Control and Stability Control, which are available here as a Safety Pack on Mercedes-Benz Actros 4x2 models.
The remaining 500 trucks were conventional semi-trailers not fitted with the systems.
The test ran for 12 months, and the trucks were closely monitored as they accumulated more than 106 million kilometres.
It was found those trucks not fitted with the latest safety technology were involved in twice as many crashes as the trucks that were fitted with them. And the cost of crash damage to the unprotected trucks was nine times more than the damage done to the protected trucks.
The test demonstrated that safety systems effectively reduce the main causes of crashes, namely rear-end collisions and veering off the road.
It was to help drivers avoid these two main crash causes that Mercedes-Benz developed and successively introduced the driver assistance systems from 2000 onwards, beginning with Lane Assist.
A recent run along Melbourne’s notorious Monash Freeway in heavy traffic in a Mercedes-Benz Actros equipped with a Safety Pack showed how valuable these systems can be.
As cars driven by unthinking or uncaring drivers dodged from lane to lane, often reducing the gap between vehicles to a dangerous few metres, the systems worked overtime trying to keep the truck out of harm’s way.
Even helped by the awesome braking power of the Actros and its anti-skid disc brakes, a semi-trailer weighing 40 tonnes needs quite a lot of road to stop or change lanes.
The radar-based proximity control system linked to the active cruise control was constantly assessing the distance to the car in front and reading what it was doing.
A situation in which one car was moving away from the truck after having pulled in was assessed as not requiring intervention, but a car that dropped in front and slowed brought all systems into action.
Engine power was reduced, but when that wasn’t enough to restore the set distance the driver had selected, the engine brake activated and increased as much as it determined was necessary.
Finally, the truck’s own brakes were brought into play.
Active Brake Assist will eventually apply everything if that’s what is needed to avoid crashing into the vehicle ahead. It will not always be able to avoid an accident, but its application of full braking power reduces the impact speed and therefore considerably lessens the consequences of the collision.
The system has clocked about 350 million kilometres in customer vehicles, and has established a consistently positive track record.
The Safety Pack costs $14,500.
Leader of the pack: a Mercedes-Benz Actros truck fitted with the latest safety systems, available here as a Safety Pack.