Safety benefits beat costs in the long run

A major issue that has stumped auto and truck makers alike is how to communicate the overall value of safety systems to the end user

WASHINGTON, DC. A major issue that has stumped auto and truck makers alike is how to communicate the overall value of safety systems to the end user. Inevitably, OEMs are faced with the task of convincing budget-conscious car and truck buyers to add costly safety options such as electronic stability control (ESC) and crash avoidance systems to their vehicles in order to gain long-term savings benefits.

“The economic value of the safety technology we offer is not always apparent to the customer,” explained Scott Kress, vp-sales and marketing for Volvo Trucks North America, during a speech at a special traffic safety forum hosted here by the Swedish embassy. “The value of safety hasn’t always been a clear business case. Making that business case as a heavy truck manufacturer is our challenge for the future.”

Kress said both the direct and indirect costs of accidents have huge consequences for trucking companies. According to statistics compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the cost per truck accident when injuries are involved averages $245,000; when a fatality is involved this amount escalates to $3.4 million. Those are merely the direct costs, Kress stressed, which doesn’t include the hidden costs of vehicle downtime, missed deadlines, and damage to a carrier’s reputation.

“We need to recognize the serious results when large trucks are in a crash with smaller vehicles,” he said. “So while passive safety systems -- air bags, seat belts, and crush-resistant roofs -- are important, we must remember that the best accident is one that doesn’t occur. That’s why our future focus must be on bringing more active safety systems to heavy trucks, so we can better mitigate the effects of an accident or avoid them altogether.”

Kress emphasized that vehicle safety must be thought of as a competitive advantage, though one balanced by the business needs of fleets.

“Our challenge is to find that balance between safety, low cost of ownership, and vehicle productivity,” he said. “More flexible government regulations can help, such as allowing for weight waivers so we can add in safety systems without taking away from the vehicle’s payload. Incentives to encourage more widespread adoption of safety technology, such as relief from federal sales taxes on new trucks, can help as well.”

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