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Trucks at Work

Taking a stand for safety

"I'm going to rise today/and change this world." --from the song "Rise Today" by Alter Bridge.

Couple weeks back, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) made a pretty bold move in my estimation to beef up commercial vehicle safety: asking all the major North American heavy truck manufacturers to make anti-rollover devices standard equipment on all new Class 8 trucks.

Right now, two heavy truck OEMs - Volvo and Mack - have made one of the three currently existing anti-rollover systems standard equipment on all their new Class 8 trucks, with the others offering anti-rollover technology as an option. The CTA‘s CEO, David Bradley, stressed that while such technology won‘t prevent every rollover, it‘ll go a long way to eliminating the majority of them.

“Of course, any stability system cannot prevent all situations and is in no way a replacement for good drivers and good driving practices,” he said in a written statement. “However, CTA is convinced that the current anti-rollover technology performs well with all types of tractor-trailer configurations and should become part of all standard new vehicle packages.”

The CTA started hammering on this issue after a spate of rollover truck crashes in central Canada this past summer that caused fatalities, serious injuries and/or highway shutdowns in some cases. “Whether all or some of these rollovers were the fault of the truck driver, or more than likely the fault of a car driver who cut off a truck, does not change the fact that our members feel from experience that the truck anti-rollover devices currently available for installation on new tractors can help prevent some of these incidents and is therefore pretty cheap insurance,” said Bradley.

He also noted that the next step is to consider wider use of electronic stability control or ESC on commerical trucks, which adds directional control benefits to the anti-rollover package. The U.S. government is mandating ESC for all new cars and light trucks by 2011 and Canada is considering whether to create a similar light-vehicle mandate as well. Bradley said that, while neither the U.S. nor Canadian governments has yet made a move to mandate the technology on heavy trucks, regulatory options are being investigated.

Before fleets on this side of the border start grousing about the cost of complying with such mandates - and fleets will pay extra bucks to cover the cost of making anti-rollover technology a standard feature, make no mistake about that - consider some of these numbers.

When Volvo made Bendix‘s Electronic Stability Program (ESP) a standard feature on all of its VN and VT Class 8 tractors, it added about $995 to the base price of both models. In terms of dollars, what is that $995 for an ESP system really buying? Volvo crunched the numbers and the results are pretty compelling. The average cost of a single rollover is $109,000: $50,000 to repair the vehicle, $20,000 in cargo claims, $10,000 for towing, $10,000 for clean-up, $10,000 in down time, and $10,000 for higher insurance premiums

At a 5% profit margin, a fleet would have to generate $2 million in revenue to pay for one rollover accident, Volvo calculated - so paying $995 is pretty cheap by comparison.

Of course, this is just the start of the debate - the CTA is calling only for voluntary action right now. But it‘s worth noting that this isn‘t a government agency or safety group calling for this - these are the fleets themselves, the folks who‘ll have to pony up the bucks for this safety technology. It‘s good to see this kind of support shaping up for safety systems.