THE SCIENCE OF TRUCK SAFETY
VOLVO TRUCKS VISION 2020
WE ARE ALL PART OF THE SOLUTION
Roads are becoming busier by the day, and modern on-demand lifestyles and the rise of e-commerce mean van and lorry traffic is increasing, fast. Despite trains doing this job for far longer, lorries are pioneering the future of goods transport. As road use increases, safety becomes a critical factor for all road users, leading to ambitious safety plans such as Volvo’s Vision 2020.
A RAPIDLY CHANGING ENVIRONMENT means that more and more goods are moving about the landscape than ever before, translating to busier roads and more risk for all road users. Lorries share the risk with cars, motorcycles, cyclists and pedestrians, but often truck drivers have high standards of safety imposed on them, with little responsibility placed on other road users to act responsibly too.
While safety is everyone’s responsibility, Volvo Trucks is leading the way to find solutions to the problem of trucking related accidents that seems to be on the rise.
Volvo Trucks pioneers road safety for all with a dedicated Volvo Trucks Accident Research team whose task it is to consider aspects of traffic accidents and translate the data they receive into usable information for Volvo engineers and strategists.
This dedicated team recently completed an in-depth study of road accidents in the United Kingdom, to find the opinions of road users around safety – from car and lorry drivers to cyclists and pedestrians. The goal: to focus on people’s perceptions of lorries with a target of ultimately improving road safety.
FINDING COMMON GROUND Although the study was conducted in the United Kingdom where, admittedly, road conditions and road user attitudes
are vastly different to the South African experience, there are key points from the study that can easily be imposed on our local zeitgeist.
The results of the survey are inspiring, though, and show that other road users recognise the role that trucks play in the running of our daily lives, while also acknowledging the need for greater awareness of trucks, by other road users. Despite more than half of the general public feeling that lorries represent a risk on UK roads, a vast majority (76%) feel that road safety is the shared responsibility of road users.
By carrying out studies like this, Volvo Trucks can understand the needs and concerns of the road users to address them better. The goal, according to Volvo’s Vision 2020 safety plan, is to reach zero accidents. Volvo Trucks recognises this is the shared responsibility of all road users but is leading by example to help make the roads safer as traffic increases in the future. These actions aim to change lorries, drivers, government policies, regulations, education, awareness, research and cooperation for a safer future.
TECH TO THE RESCUE?
With such a massive challenge ahead, the spotlight falls squarely on what the role of technology is in mitigating truck accidents and thereby improving road safety.
While it is true that technology has a massively important role to play in the safety equation, there are limits to what technology can achieve. It is not a failsafe against human error and should be seen as support rather than solution.
Accident simulation is a critical technological application for Volvo Trucks safety researchers, who can gain valuable insights from ‘real world’ driving situations, and how drivers respond to those situations.
Volvo Trucks has a close relationship with the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI), and regularly uses the Institute’s truck driving simulator for their research. As an independent and internationally prominent research institute in the transport sector, the VTI is tasked with conducting research and development related to infrastructure, traffic, and transportation matters.
Information gained from this simulator flows into the development of new safety features on Volvo Trucks.
Naturally, driver support systems are increasingly important to improve general truck safety, and Volvo is at the forefront of developments in this field. Several technologies that we take for granted in modern cars are also employed in contemporary Volvo trucks, with key intelligent safety systems already available in these vehicles including:
• Adaptive Cruise Control – Helps the driver maintain a set time gap to the vehicle in front;
• Collision Warning with Emergency Brake – Alerts the driver if there is a risk of collision with a car in front, activating the brakes if necessary;
• Driver Alert Support – Notifies the driver to take a break if it detects any sign of driver inattentiveness or drowsiness.
Although Volvo Trucks regards it as their responsibility to ensure that Volvo transport vehicles are as safe as possible, European legislation also drives improvements in truck safety. As of November 2015, there has been an EU-wide legal requirement for new two-and three-axle heavy trucks to be equipped with the automatic emergency brake function. The legislation aims to reduce accidents in which a truck drives into the back of another vehicle, an accident scenario that accounts for about one-fifth of all road accidents involving trucks. At present, legislation requires that the emergency braking system must reduce the truck’s speed by 10 km/h, but by 2018, this requirement will be tightened to 20 km/h.
TRAINING ROAD USERS
There is little doubt that visibility plays a vital role in preventing truck accidents.
Often, pedestrians aren’t aware of exactly what a truck driver can see from the cockpit. And regularly assume that they are visible to the driver, leading to the high number of incidents between trucks and other road users, especially in urban areas.
Making matters worse, truck drivers often don’t use their mirrors properly, meaning that they won’t see a bicycle parked next to them at a traffic light, or a pedestrian walking on a sidewalk next to their vehicle.
To this end, Volvo Trucks has been pioneering many driver-training campaigns - not only for lorry drivers but cyclists and pedestrians too. The ‘See and Be Seen’ programme, for instance, aims to help vulnerable road users, from cyclists to pedestrians, better understand how to interact safely with trucks on the roads.
The programme focuses on how important it is for cyclists and pedestrians to make themselves visible to lorry drivers and other road users by maintaining both eye contact and a safe distance from the vehicle.
Regarding vehicle innovation, Volvo Trucks will also continue to develop smart vehicle designs that are conducive to safety. Last year, Volvo launched new cabs specifically to improve driver visibility on the roads. That means extra-large windows, slim designs for enhanced rearview mirror effectiveness and Night Mode for improved visibility in the dark.
Volvo Trucks is also committed to working together with governments, industry stakeholders, and the public, to achieve its goal of zero accidents in the not-too-distant future.
“WHILE SAFETY IS EVERYONE’S RESPONSIBILITY, VOLVO TRUCKS IS LEADING THE WAY TO FIND SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEM OF TRUCKING RELATED ACCIDENTS THAT SEEMS TO BE ON THE RISE.”
Left: See and Be Seen Training
This Image: Using technology to improve visibility Below: VTI Truck Simulator