21st Century Truck Initiative/Partnership (21CTP)
The truck manufacturers were the main industry stakeholders in the safety arena, as they were responsible for producing the vehicles that keep their occupants safe, can operate safely on the highway, and meet the safety standards. The Department of Transportation (DoT), through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCA), was the key player in achieving the safety goals outlined in the Partnership's vision. The DoT provided the leadership role by collecting, investigating, and interpreting accident data and fostering R&D that would reduce injuries and fatalities.
Safety was a central element in the 21CTP vision. The OEMs stated on numerous occasions that safety was their number one priority. The public also placed a high premium on safety with concern about driver fatigue, truck aggressivity, and risks associated with exposure to heavy trucks. According to DoT, preliminary estimates involving large truck crashes and fatalities declined slightly and steadily from 1997 through 2002, but increased slightly in 2003. Annette Sandberg, FMCSA Administrator said (on July 9, 2004): "In 2003 we lost more than 43,000 people on our nation's highways. Of that 43,000, nearly 5,000 deaths were related to commercial motor vehicles. We were very encouraged by a steady decrease in truck-related fatalities from 1997 to 2002. However, the preliminary 2003 highway crash statistics showed a slight rise in these fatalities." This increase was among the smallest of highway users, however.
Although secondary in significance to fatalities, crashes involving such vehicles also imposed a variety of costs on the vehicle and its driver, and other drivers either directly or indirectly involved in the crash. Based on a study by the Pacific Institute, the estimated cost of police reported crashes involving trucks with a gross weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds averaged $59,153 (in 2000 dollars). The costs per crash with injuries averaged $164,730 for large truck crashes and $77,043 for bus crashes.
The average annual cost of large truck crashes in 1997-99 exceeded $19.6 billion. That total included $6.6 billion in productivity losses, $3.4 billion in resource costs, and quality of life losses valued at $9.6 billion.
In developing programs to improve vehicle safety, it was essential to consider the multiple factors contributing to the cause of, or enabling truck crashes. These included:
- motor carrier management's commitment to safety and their safety management practices
- driver skill, performance, and behavior
- driver distraction and driver fatigue
- roadway design and condition
- traffic volumes and density
- vehicle design, performance, and condition; and institutional issues such as motor carrier regulations and enforcement.
Of this list, the factors being addressed in 21CTP were focused on vehicle design, performance and condition, whereas the other factors were being addressed in many other DoT programs. Nevertheless, safety was one of the strategic elements of the 21CTP, and improvements in vehicle design could yield significant crash prevention/mitigation improvements. Most of the technology changes that were being addressed by the 21CTP in pursuit of fuel economy, low emissions, and cost effectiveness could be inherently linked to the safety of the trucks operating on our nation's highways. The 21CTP would address the safety implications of all technological changes that were needed to meet the goals in the other facets of the Partnership.
Conversely, technologies that contributed to enhancing the safety of heavy vehicles could also contribute to enhanced fuel efficiencies, lower emissions, and enhanced productivity. For example, the ability to avoid congestion, work zones, and inclement weather, all have great safety benefits, and could also avoid needless idling, and inefficient low-speed operation of heavy trucks. Collision warning systems help to minimize incidents/accidents that could result in hours of congestion and increased idling times of vehicles attempting to navigate the incident area.
The 21CTP would work collaboratively in DoT-led research programs to enhance crash avoidance and crashworthiness. These goals were outlined as follows:
Crash Avoidance: Develop and implement technologies for braking, rollover protection and visibility enhancement:
- Braking: Advanced braking technologies will be sought with the research goal of achieving a reduction of stopping distances by 30% from operational speeds in appropriate platforms. Improvement in retention of braking ability during grade descents is desired.
- Roll-Over: Reduce the incidences of heavy vehicle roll-over through the application of advanced technology brake control systems and other complementing technologies.
- Vehicle Position: Develop and implement driver aid systems that promote safe following distance and inlane tracking.
- Visibility: Develop and implement systems that provide the operator with 360 degree visibility (direct and indirect) in day and night conditions.
- Work with tire manufacturers to improve truck tire performance and reduce tire debris. Incorporate tire advancements with improved braking technologies to achieve substantial vehicle handling improvements.
Potential examples of crash avoidance subsystem and component technologies that could contribute to reaching these goals may include, but were not limited to the following:
- Advanced brake materials, methods and systems
- Video-based visibility systems
- Electronic braking systems with automated stability control system software
- Active stability controls and counter measure systems
- Collision avoidance and lane-tracking systems
- Integrated vehicle-based safety systems (IVBSS)
Crashworthiness: Determine the feasibility of enhanced occupant survivability in collisions (offset, frontal, and angle/sideswipe) at differential speeds up to 35 mph between heavy vehicles and passenger vehicles weighing approximately 4,000 pounds. Also, improvements would be sought in truck occupant seat belt use rates by harmonizing restraint systems requirements to enhance comfort and, therefore, driver acceptability. Potential examples of crashworthiness subsystem and component technologies for achieving these goals could include, but were not limited to the following:
- Intelligent and integrated seat belt technologies, with a focus on quarter-and-a-half turn truck roll-overs
- Advances in crash energy attenuation materials technologies
- Crash energy management technologies
- Reduction in vehicle mass for reducing differential impact in mixed traffic
- Vehicle structural system design and under-run barriers
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