Driver safety when it comes to big rigs |

Driver safety when it comes to big rigs

Brook Bentley
NevCal Trucking is a family business.
Courtesy NevCal Trucking |

“In the end, the driver is still number one when it comes to safety with the truck,” summed up Brad Meyer, operations manager with NevCal Trucking.

Companies like NevCal Trucking work diligently to keep their trucks and drivers as safe as possible. No trucking company wants to face a situation like the incident John Davis Trucking had with Amtrak back in 2011 that resulted in the loss of six lives and a $4.55 million lawsuit. The court ruled the collision 70 miles east of Reno to have been a result of unsafe driving as well as an unsafe truck.

Northern Nevada has a large trucking industry, which means driver safety is huge for companies in the area. Technology is helping to streamline the areas that need to be taken into account when it comes to driver safety.

Stability control was one of the first pieces of Bendix technology that NevCal installed on their fleet. Meyer recounted a situation where they had a driver come up on an accident around a bend in the road. This unexpected situation on the road resulted in the truck swerving off the road, down part of a hill and up the following side. The stability control software kept the truck from rolling. This not only saved them from having a total loss with their truck, but also prevented what could have been a catastrophic situation for the driver.

“The biggest thing is driver happiness.”Brad Meyer operations manager with NevCal Trucking

Paul Jones, regional service engineer for Bendix, explained the variety of technology that can be added to a truck fleet to increase driver safety. ESP Full Stability systems not only prevent roll over situations, but also are capable of assisting in under-steer and over-steer events. Wingman is their collision mitigation system, which uses radar to determine if a truck is approaching a car too quickly. Lane departure technology uses cameras to warn the driver of lane swerving.

The lane departure technology has been noted as not fully reliable in heavy snow so Bendix incorporated a feature that allows the driver to dismiss the lane departure warnings for 15 minutes during heavy snow or construction situations where the constant notification may become a distraction to the driver.

Bendix’s latest piece of technology is the Wingman Fusion. This uses all the previous technology in a collaboration that allows the different safety features to constantly gather, share and confirm information about what is happening with the truck, while communicating with the braking system in case of an emergency. Bendix’s website has quoted veteran driver’s about this system saying, “In the name of safety, Fusion demonstrates how this product changes the safety industry.”

Jones also went on to explain a new optional feature they are rolling out that uses facial recognition software, for a lack of better term, to read the numbers on signs that are shaped like a speed limit sign. If the driver is going five miles per hour over the posted speed limit there will be a visual and audible alert to the driver, 10 over and the technology will take away the throttle from the driver for a moment.

Bendix offers full training on their added safety features for drivers. Jones explained they offer free full trainings online or onsite depending on driver preference, “We work to make the information available,” added Jones. This technology can be intimidating to a veteran driver and, “as of August 2015 it became required by federal law to have stability technology in every over road truck or coach traveling on highway roads,” Jones said. “They are given two years to comply.”

While some of these safety features are becoming mandatory by law, NevCal Trucking has not been waiting for the safety laws to pass. “The biggest thing is driver happiness,” Meyer added while talking about 75 percent of their fleet having the most current safety technology and that number getting closer to 100 as they turn their trucks around every five years.

The technology doesn’t come without cost. There are ranging costs, depending on what level of safety technology a company wants to outfit their trucks with, monthly fees and maintenance to follow.

However, the perks of the technology really seem to outweigh these factors in regards to safety.

Trucking companies are gaining the ability to be more selective with the standards they hold their drivers to because these new safety features all report to a system that monitors their driving. If a driver is using sudden breaking, for example, the safety team can see this within the monitoring system and contact that person immediately to inquire about what is going on. They look for patterns in drivers to evaluate their safety and use statistics to know if they are likely to have an accident of some kind. By doing this, they can stay ahead of a situation possibly becoming unsafe.

NevCal, like many other companies, is in favor of having this added technology to increase their driver’s safety. It improves their quality of business all around. The truck, which is about a $200,000 item, is protected from situational error, the driver is provided features to assist in unexpected circumstances that appear on the road and the company can monitor what is happening with their driver and truck to allow safe transportation of their goods.

In sum, it seems more of the safety features will become required by law which means driver safety will, ultimately, continue to increase.