From the driver’s seat: Truck safety perspectives

Many trucks today, for instance, have automatic emergency braking systems that can help prevent a crash. However, the idea is to never need that system to brake, according to Clark Reed, company driver and trainer for Nussbaum Transportation. That’s where proper training comes in.

“If you don’t teach people how to manage this technology, it takes away from the driver a little bit,” Reed said during the Truckload Carriers Association’s Safety & Security Meeting in St. Louis. “Learning how to manage this technology is key to making it efficient and safe.”

Henry Albert, owner of Albert Transport, does a lot of training with commercial motor carriers, and he said he teaches professional drivers not to use collision mitigation technology. Even though that sounds wrong, the idea, he said, is to teach drivers to always stay a step ahead.

Rather than teaching drivers to depend on a truck’s safety technology, Albert tries to show his students what the technology is looking for.

“I teach them to see what it sees when they are looking out of the same windshield,” Albert said. “The key is to stay a step ahead of it. Train the driver on what it’s looking for, but don’t tell them that it’s all figured out. It’s not all figured out; it does need their assistance.”

Albert added that so much of the industry-wide conversation about technology is how smart today’s commercial vehicles are. However, drivers at a truck stop are quick to tell him how “stupid” they think the trucks are.

“These trucks are not at all smart and they are not at all stupid,” Albert explained. “They’re just a computer, and computers are not smart or stupid. They are operating on logic. So, that’s really what I train [drivers] on—what’s the logic behind the system?

“Once they understand the logic, they can stay a step ahead of it and it makes them a better driver,” he continued. “Then, they keep the system in the background to save their career and/or someone’s life.”

Understanding the technology

One thing that Reed says he always tells his student is to leave enough space between vehicles—about 100 ft—to avoid a hard braking event.

When it comes to collision mitigation technology like ABS to prevent jack-knifing of the trailer during emergency braking, the technology has absolutely helped reduce crashes. However, Albert noted that human nature will cause people to drive right up to the technology’s limit.

“To me, the real key is to not use your safety systems,” he said. “Don’t drive up to that new limit. That’s human nature, though, especially when you’re paid by the mile.”

Reed emphasized that getting driver buy-in on new technology can be incredibly challenging because drivers are paid by the mile yet regulated by the hour.

“That puts us in a bad situation where we have to go, go, go to make money, but we’ve got to fight this clock, and we want to be safe,” he said.

Reed also suggested that some drivers aren’t as receptive to new safety technologies because they can sometimes take the feel of the truck away from the driver.

“The driver really needs to feel the road,” he advised. “The moment you take the driver away from that experience, the more they are going to relax and become lackadaisical in their driving, and that’s what leads to accidents.”

When it comes to the implementation of event recorders and inward-facing cameras, drivers initially raised concerns about privacy issues, but over the years, those concerns have begun to subside. Regardless, trucking companies must make it a point to explain to their drivers how that technology actually works.

Out on the road and when an incident occurs, Reed said drivers become much more receptive to having cameras when another vehicle jumps into that space between the truck and another vehicle.

“I have a perfect reason to show them if you rear-ended them or something had happened, now you’ve got protection,” Reed explained. “The inward-facing camera will show that you were paying attention. I say this all the time, drivers hate that technology until it saves their career.”

This article was originally posted by American Trucker.