Thursday, July 1, 2010

US Less Than Truckload Company Turns To Technology In A Big Way

'Out of the Lab and Into the Cab' for Con-way Freight
Shipping News Feature

US – Last month we mentioned several trials underway in the States by bodies like the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) directly concerned with technology being used in the cab to reduce the most common of trucking accidents. Now a participant in the studies, Con-way Freight, less than truckload (LTL) carrier and a subsidiary of Con-way Inc. have announced a major safety initiative in which it has installed in new trucks a broad range of advanced technologies designed to prevent accidents and improve safe driving performance.

Under the program, the company has put into service nearly 1,300 new Freightliner Cascadia 2010-model tractors, each equipped with an integrated suite of advanced driver alert and truck control technologies. The suite includes technologies that provide for rollover stability, front collision warning, and lane departure warning plus in dash radio units which replace portable radios and are designed to minimise driver distraction.

The replacement tractors represent an overall investment of just over $100 million, with the integrated suite of safety technologies comprising $5.4 million. All three technologies are important advancements for reducing accident frequency and are aimed at prevention of the most common accident situations in which trucks are involved.

Con-way began testing these and other technologies in February 2009 in partnership with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), which managed the Department of Transportation funded Integrated Vehicle-Based Safety System (IVBSS) program. Over the next 10 months, UMTRI, as program manager, conducted field testing and evaluation of a new, integrated crash warning system for commercial trucks.

As a participant in the study, Con-way Freight purchased 10 Class-8 tractors equipped with the IVBSS suite of technologies. Eighteen Con-way Freight truck drivers operated the IVBSS-equipped trucks in regular commercial service out of the company's Detroit service center. The program collected and analyzed data on system performance as well as driver interaction and feedback in real-world operating conditions. Results of UMTRI's study will be released this summer.

According to federal studies, the most common incidences of commercial motor vehicle crashes involve front-end collisions, lane changes or departures, and rollovers. To address each of these, Con-way Freight has adopted the following systems for new replacement units coming into the fleet:

• Forward Collision Warning: This technology uses adaptive cruise control to help a vehicle maintain a safe following distance and avoid rear-end collisions by braking as needed. The adaptive cruise control automatically keeps a safe distance behind the vehicle ahead, accelerating or decelerating as needed in the absence of driver action. The system uses forward-looking radar sensor technology to detect a potential collision, and will then send audible and visual warnings to the driver through an in-cab display. Known as the OnGuardT System, this collision avoidance technology was developed by Meritor WABCO.

• Lane Departure Warning: This technology monitors a vehicle's position relative to highway lane markings and sounds an alarm to alert the vehicle operator if they are unintentionally driving out of their lane. Using image recognition software, the system can detect when a vehicle drifts out of its intended lane. When this occurs, the unit automatically emits an audible warning, similar to the sound a vehicle makes when it travels over a highway "rumble strip," alerting the driver to make a correction. Known as the AutoVueT Lane Departure Warning system, this technology was developed by Iteris.

• Roll Stability Control: This technology senses driving conditions or vehicle performance tendencies that are consistent with a vehicle about to roll over, such as during hard cornering or change of direction. When the system senses rollover conditions, an indicator lamp on the dash alerts the driver. Even if the driver does not feel or sense the possibility of a rollover, the system will automatically respond by decreasing the engine torque. This system was also developed by Meritor WABCO.

• In-Dash Radios: Factory-installed in-dash AM/FM/Satellite radios were included in the equipment suite to replace portable radios often brought by drivers into the cab. The in-dash units help to reduce driver distractions by keeping their eyes focused ahead on the road.

"With the anticipated release of FMCSA's Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 initiative and the potential for stricter safety regulations for truck drivers and trucking companies, Con-way Freight is proactively pursuing a high-tech approach to safety," noted Bob Petrancosta, the company's vice president of safety and a 41-year industry veteran who started his career as a driver. "We were very pleased to work with the FMCSA and UMTRI to test and validate these technologies over the past year. It confirmed what we initially believed - these are effective technologies in our operation that can provide real-world, lifesaving results. It's an investment we're proud to make."

"Advanced technologies that have proven safety benefits hold great promise for making our highways safer," said Bill Graves, president and CEO of American Trucking Associations. "Con-way Freight's significant investment illustrates their leadership and commitment to further developing and testing these technologies."

Photo: Don't Panic Truckers - It's the Flight Control Suite of Concorde.