This month, Heavy Duty Trucking's 2010 Truck Fleet Innovators offer their viewpoints on how equipment and technology can improve safety.

Ben Bauman, President and CEO, Bolt Express

Since Bolt Express is mostly built upon an owner-operator fleet, we do not have a lot of input into the spec'ing of the fleet trucks. With that said, the trucks and drivers we hire must meet our safety specs.

All trucks are currently using electronic onboard recorders and auto logging. We find that when the driver has a hard braking event and our safety department calls them 15 minutes later with questions regarding the event, most drivers recognize very quickly that safety is top priority at Bolt Express, and we see instant improvements from these drivers.

We also find that 90 percent of the drivers, once they have used the auto logging, are very happy with the technology. Since installing EOBRs, our safety scores for drivers have gone down 22.6 percent in 2009 and 7.7 percent in 2010. For vehicles, safety scores were reduced by 14.1 percent in 2009 and 9.5 percent in 2010.

Overall, our approach to specs and safety have awarded Bolt Express, two years running, the State of Ohio small carrier safety award.

Jim Burg, President and CEO, James Burg Trucking

I look at my own data and FMCSA crash data and ask, 'What's the largest contributor to safety?' The big uproar is hours of service, but people actually falling asleep at the wheel are a small fraction of the crash rate. Things like forward-looking radar with foundation brake application could eliminate up to 25 percent of crashes. That's a technology that can be easily and affordably invested in to really have a significant impact in improving highway safety. So we're looking at that. On our latest trucks, we're looking at air disc brakes.

We already have roll stability and lane departure warning systems. Our tire inflation system can prevent a blowout. It also has a wheel-end temperature monitor so if a wheel-end gets overheated, it gives an alert to the driver before the bearing fails.

I'm using video event recorders. It's a little box that mounts about where the rear-view mirror would be in a car. One camera records out the front, the other into the vehicle. There's no live feed, but if there's a significant movement of the vehicle, like a hard stop, the 20 seconds of video before and after that event is saved. The file is uploaded and sent via cellular technology back to the program administrator, and if there is something significant, they send it on to us. It's one thing to say Driver Bob has 10 hard stops so he's an unsafe driver - but what if those were all legitimate actions he took to avoid a pileup?

Doug Duncan, President and CEO (retired), FedEx Freight

For FedEx Freight, investing in safety equipment and testing this equipment can show the motoring public how dedicated the less-than-truckload carrier is to safety. These efforts also show the company's employees that they're a priority, cultivating its "people first" culture.

The company also makes an effort to work hand in hand with its safety department, to stay aligned with safety priorities and with what's important to the department, says Dennis Beal, vice president of physical assets. The carrier also speaks with drivers about safety to make sure they're on the same page.

"We're big on testing," says Beal. Spec'ing for safety is a fully vetted process; the company has a group dedicated to research and development that's constantly testing safety technology in the real world.

Since 2002, FedEx has used collision avoidance systems, which warn drivers of excessive closure rates and eliminates rear-end collisions, Duncan said. Lane departure warning signals are now standard on all new equipment. This technology helps indicate when the driver is tired. Stability control technology is designed to prevent rollovers from occurring.

Beal says the trucks are spec'ed with an air release on the fifth wheel, which prevents injuries. LED lighting is also standard on the trucks; they can provide an instantaneous reaction and are long-lasting. The trailer tires are equipped with automatic air inflation systems to contribute to overall safety. Trailers are also spec'ed with portholes in the side, to provide a safer environment for drivers to work in and let more light in to the trailer.

Jim Mickey, Co-owner and President, Coastal Pacific Xpress

We place a huge emphasis on the driver component, ahead of a disturbing trend in trucking to get some gizmo to try to assist a subpar driver to survive through his career of close calls.

That said, we have trialed some gear over the recent past that has intrigued us. Lane departure warning devices are interesting and potentially valuable additions to long-haul tractors, and we have tried a test batch to varying degrees of acceptance in our world. They have serious shortcomings in the winter due to the basic requirement to have visible line markings.

Night vision screens have particular interest to us, as much of the fresh food freight moves just-in-time for an early morning delivery target (giving us a huge exposure to night driving). They are again of varying degrees of acceptance in the field and of only a narrow application for many truckers.

One no-brainer is our move to disc brakes for better performance.

One area I am really supportive of is of a passive nature. We track both over speed and hard braking incidents via our GPS communication device. I believe if all you show me about a driver is the number of panic brake applications in a month, I can predict the likelihood of a calamity in the months ahead.

Tom Voelkel, President and Chief Operating Officer, Dupre Logistics

At Dupre, our mission statement is "Safe service that's profitable!" When working through equipment specifications, our team follows this same methodology.

Our vision is to be "the safest transportation and logistics company in North America." Here are some of the steps that are getting us closer to this vision:

We have installed GreenRoad technology in all tractors, company cars and company pickup trucks. This helps the driver improve his driving in the areas of lane handling, acceleration patterns, corner handling, speed handling and braking patterns. In addition, this device will improve our mpg. We also spec Qualcomm, and this measures hard braking events and notifies the responsible operating manager and the safety department that this occurred so they can speak with the driver and determine what happened.

We have been spec'ing rollover stability on our tractors since 2008 and on our trailers since late 2009. Rollovers are the driver's worst nightmare and have a high probability of deadly results. We recently started to spec orange seat belts for visibility to help our drivers to use them and allow enforcement agencies to readily see them for quick identification at inspection points.

We have been spec'ing LED lighting for better visibility for a long time now. We are using air pressure monitoring devices that will notify our drivers in the case of a blowout. We recently began to spec low stopping-distance brake shoes and of course [we have] ABS brakes. Our trucks are also set to run a maximum speed of 62 mph.

From the June 2010 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.