Man… the things you learn at the Technology and Maintenance Council meetings. I’ve got a doozie for you if you’re rightfully concerned about the rash of “nuclear verdicts” hitting truck fleets hard these days. Nuclear verdicts are massive jury awards being handed out in the wake of accidents with significant damages to private property or injuries or even deaths.
Let’s assume you’ve got a new tractor in the shop. Something happened on the road the other day — no one knows for sure what — but something moving at high speed threaded the truck’s grill perfectly and thumped the radiator coil hard, causing a pinhole leak. The leak is on a seam, so the maintenance manager makes the call to simply replace the whole unit, and the technicians get to work.
No big deal, right?
Well, suppose that for some reason the technicians need to take the front bumper off while they’re working on the radiator. Or, even more likely, a technician accidently wedges his foot into an open spot on the grill, trying to get a step up to better get at a hose or the radiator itself.
Thanks to that bumper reinstallation, or that work boot wedged up in the grill, the radar sensor in the middle of the front bumper — the unit that provides real-time speed and distance data to the truck’s active cruise control system — is no longer tracking vehicles directly in front of the truck. This sensor provides critical information that allows the truck to maintain safe following distances and brake or stop if the vehicle its tracking does so as well.
Instead, it’s off kilter by just a few degrees, which means the sensor is now mainly tracking traffic off to the left-side of the truck instead of vehicles directly in front of the it.
And, if a rear-end accident occurs while that radar sensor is out of proper calibration, then guess what? The shop that performed the radiator work and did not recalibrate that sensor correctly (if at all) is going to be liable in any lawsuits filed in the wake of the accident.
So, if your technicians are not trained on how to properly calibrate safety sensors on vehicles, it’s time to start looking around and seeing where you can go to get your technicians up to speed. Bendix offers courses for its Wingman Fusion System, for example. And there are other courses from OEMs and suppliers available as well.
Just as important as getting your technicians training is the need to properly document any repair processes that involve advanced safety system sensors and make certain that any recalibration procedures are recorded and readily available if any lawyers come knocking on your shop door.
Advanced safety systems are designed to help your fleet avoid accidents and the nuclear verdicts that can come along with them. It would be the height of irony to lose a lawsuit because one of the very systems designed to protect your drivers and the public at large was not working properly at the time of an accident and your technicians can’t provide documentation proving that the system was performing properly when it left your shop. Getting training in order now, as well as establishing standard repair procedures and a documentation process to detail safety systems checks and calibration is a new technology wrinkle – but one fleets should begin working on immediately to better protect their drivers, the driving public and their business.