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Safety and Compliance

Introduction to truck safety technology

Trucks are some of the most dangerous workplaces in Australia, however, there are numerous technologies available which can reduce the risk to truck drivers and other road users.

This blog will help you get an understanding of how these technologies are fitted to your truck, how they have an impact on truck safety, and how broad safety technology can be.

Two ways of fitment

There are two ways heavy vehicle safety technology is fitted into vehicles, either by the truck manufacturer prior to delivery to the customer, known as Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) fitment, or they can be fitted by third party vendors, known as ‘aftermarket’ fitment.

Due to the many opportunities truck purchasers have to customise their vehicle the line between OEM and aftermarket can sometimes blur. This happens when aftermarket components are fitted prior to delivery to the customer at any point from the production line to the dealer’s yard.

In fact, including them in your new truck spec can be a very sensible way to order aftermarket technology as it reduces the risk of getting stuck with a tech problem and having to go back and forth between the truck manufacturer and the technology vendor.

A variety of approaches

Rather than diving into a particular feature or gadget, it is worthwhile to consider how various technologies can impact truck safety. Truck safety technologies can be broadly grouped by two criteria; when they manage a hazard, do they manage the hazard so that the chance of an event or near miss is reduced or do they respond once an event has taken place and seek to avoid or reduce the harm that occurs?

The former represent ‘proactive’ safety technologies, whilst the latter represent ‘reactive’ safety technologies.  In general terms, proactive technology is often preferable.

The second consideration is how the technology mitigates the risk. Is the mitigation some form of active intervention or is the benefit from the technology fundamental to its existence and so available at all times? Passive technologies tend towards the simpler and more reliable but can sometimes be overlooked in favour of their flashier ‘active’ competitors.

An example of this concept is, forward collision warning systems (FCWS), anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and front under-run protective systems (FUPS) could all be considered to reduce the harm from trucks crashing into cars slowing rapidly in traffic.

FCWS seek to intervene before a critical situation arises and therefore can be considered a proactive system and its alert to the driver is an active intervention. 

ABS intervenes by stopping brake lock-up only once a critical situation is in play and so is a reactive system and its intervention is active. 

Finally FUPS seeks to reduce the severity of injuries to car occupants when they impact a truck, so this is a reactive system, however, its intervention is passive.

Safety technology can be broader than you think

A popular concept in risk management is the ‘hierarchy of controls’, it encourages people to think about which method is best to manage a hazard.

An example of this could be, in trying to address the risk of tippers rolling during unloading, rather than mandating roll-over detection switches to instead move to using a ‘live floor’ body rather than using a tipper at all.

Similar thinking can be applied to vehicle combinations, traditional road-trains have a high rate of roll-overs, rather than fitment of roll-stability control (which is an engineering control), an alternative could be to consider use of ‘innovative’ combinations such as B triples or BAB Quads (which is arguably either a substitution or elimination of the hazard).

HIGHLIGHTS

  • There are two ways heavy vehicle safety technology can be fitted into vehicles, either by the truck manufacturer prior to delivery or by third party vendors
  • Truck safety technologies can be grouped by two criteria, when they manage a hazard or if they respond once an event has taken place
  • The hierarchy of controls can be applied to safety technology depending on your goal

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