Being a long-haul trucker is a dangerous job. Drivers travel great distances, often on tight deadlines and with little sleep, and when things go wrong, they tend to put others on the road at risk. In recent years, however, many of the same vehicle safety tools found in popular cars, such as auto-braking and lane assist technology, have made their way into trucks. Coupled with an emphasis on safety by trucking companies, these tools are transforming the industry by keeping everyone on the road safer, and that’s a change we should applaud.
Tackling Tired Drivers
When truckers take to the road, several issues increase the likelihood of an accident, but driver fatigue is one of the most significant. That’s because, although there are regulations that determine how much consecutive time truckers can spend behind the wheel and what types of breaks they need to take, even those regulations tend to push the limits of human endurance. Instead of relying exclusively on these rules and driver judgment, then, a growing number of trucking fleets are equipped with eyelid monitoring sensors that look for drooping eyelids or quick blinking that could indicate a fatigued driver. The sensors then alert the driver that they need to pull over.
Identifying impaired truckers, regardless of the cause, is an urgent industry concern because of how serious trucking accidents can be. Typically, when a commercial truck is involved in a highway accident, it usually leads to injuries or fatalities for those in passenger vehicles. In fact, truck accident lawyers typically defend injured parties who were driving alongside commercial trucks, not drivers themselves. The size of the vehicle largely protects truckers from being severely injured and in fatal truck accidents, only 16% of fatalities are truck drivers themselves.
Driver Assistance Becomes A Must
While devices that identify tired/distracted drivers are becoming more popular with trucking companies, an even more common vehicle modification is the introduction of driver assistance technology. These are generally tools with analogues in private vehicles, such as adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection, but they also include more advanced supports, like smart headlights and automated windshield wipers.
As industry experts explain, these tools may not be able to entirely prevent accidents. However, by using more of these assistive tools, they can turn fatal accidents into injuries. It’s all about making steady improvements.
An Autonomous Future?
Many experts hope that trucking will be a safer industry in the future because of autonomous driving technology, but such technology is still limited and is far from ready for widespread use. And, more to the point, driving requires second-by-second adjustments, and while humans are fallible, they are intuitive. It could take decades to develop the sort of predictive technologies for trucking that would make autonomous vehicles as safe as a seasoned trucker, but that doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t begin working with and honing sensor-based technologies now.
Autonomous vehicles, whether for trucking or personal use, are likely to exist as little more than minor players on our roads for the next decade. They remain a nascent, underdeveloped technology with a long way to go before they can be sent out onto the open road. Still, as supportive technology and a way of enhancing human capabilities, such tools share a common commitment to safety, and that’s something we can all get behind.