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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Commercial Vehicle Safety Devices

Drivers of large vehicles such as semi-trucks and buses, have to undergo specialized training to receive a commercial driver's license (CDL). This training serves to increase the safety margin for both the commercial driver and the motoring public at large. Commercial drivers operate in a dangerous environment and the hazards they face come from several fronts:
  • Other drivers, who don't respect the limitations of large vehicles and often force the commercial driver to take emergency evasive measures; in crashes between large vehicles and smaller motor vehicles, the driver of the smaller vehicle is at fault more than 75% of the time;
  • Pressures to get the cargo to market on time; some commercial drivers, who feel the need to make delivery schedules, may push themselves and their vehicle beyond safe limits; and
  • The operating environment of the vehicle itself; large tires that over-heat and come apart, large blind spots, high fuel prices, etc.

Most holders of CDL licenses are true professionals trying to operate safely in a hazardous environment however, just like in any other industry, there are a small number of drivers, whose driving behavior get all the attention and make the rest look bad.

There are several technologies that are being used by commercial transport companies to help the safe drivers increase their safety margin and to monitor those drivers who might not be so safe:

GPS – GPS provides benefits to commercial vehicle operators in several ways: GPS can help a driver plan the best route and prevents a driver from getting lost, resulting in greater fuel conservation. GPS is also used by the trucking companies to monitor their driver’s behavior. Reviewing GPS records can show whether or not a driver is obeying the speed limit laws or if the driver is pushing him or herself and not getting the required amount of rest. Tired drivers who are pushing to meet a deadline are a big hazard on the road. GPS can also help the trucking company plan more reasonable routes and realistic delivery times.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) or Tire Pressure Information System (TPIS) – You may have noticed large pieces of tires scattered about the interstate. Truck tires are subjected to a very harsh environment with heavy loads and high heat generated by long distances. When the tire fails and comes apart, the results can be catastrophic for other drivers in the vicinity. TPIS systems relay real-time tire pressure information to the driver either by a gauge, display, dedicated cameras, or a simple low-pressure warning light. They allow the driver to monitor the tires and to stop and take action if pressure readings fall out of the normal range.

Rear vision cameras or back-up cameras – Large vehicles have very large blind spots. The blind spot behind a large semi can reach up to 200 feet. Back-up cameras eliminate those blind spots and allow a driver to watch behind the vehicle; providing an even better view than what could be seen in a rearview mirror.

Use of these technologies shouldn't be limited to large commercial vehicles; any company with a fleet of vehicles should consider using these devices for planning, safety, and driver monitoring. Obviously, the primary safety device in the vehicle is a professionally trained and safe driver but it is nice to have a back-up just in case.

Read more about New Rules for Truckers Require Electronic Monitoring of Driver’s Hours

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