The Owl made its debut in the trucking industry in the '70s. It was designed to wake a driver when it sensed he or she was dozing, thereby preventing accidents resulting from trucks wandering out of their lanes.
As I recall, it clamped onto the driver's head and emitted a loud buzz to the ear when it decided the head was nodding off. Drivers who got buzzed when they were wide awake weren't especially fond of it.
Thirty years later, how things have changed. Today's technology really does keep drivers on course – without them having to strap a contraption to their noggins.
Little Rock-based Maverick Transportation LLC is high on safety technology, and with good reason. Its use of the Iteris Lane Departure Warning (LDW) system, Meritor Wabco's Roll Stability Control (RSC) and Eaton Vorad Collision Warning System has produced substantial reductions in preventable accidents.
Dean Newell, vp-safety, says Maverick first targets the types of accidents it wants to eliminate, then selects the systems to do it. For lane departure accidents, it picked LDW to work in conjunction with RSC.
It began installations on its 1,000 power units in late 2004. That year, without the systems, it had 23 run-off or lane change-related preventable accidents, a rate of one every 4.75 million miles traveled.
Since then, Maverick trucks equipped with the systems have run 40.7 million miles, with only three such accidents. That's a rate of one every 13.56 million miles traveled – an impressive 65% reduction.
The LDW sensor mounts at the top of the windshield in the cab, and there's a speaker above and behind each door. When the driver starts to wander, there's a loud rumble-strip sound from the speaker on the side where the truck is headed.
It constantly tracks vehicle position relative to lane markings – even dashed or faded ones and even in bad weather. It doesn't go off when drivers make planned lane changes using turn signals (a nice incentive for them to signal) or at speeds below 37 mph.
The rollover control system works though automated braking and engine power controls, which take over from the driver when the rig gets into trouble (see Tom Berg's driving report, page 82, September HDT). Newell says it works well with the LDW on Maverick's trucks.
Vorad, which Newell says has mostly prevented rear-end collisions but also some lane-change crashes, rounds out Maverick's crash prevention package. Newell especially likes its accident reconstruction feature, which he credits with cutting his liability costs in half. Vorad uses radar to warn drivers of objects/vehicles through warning lights and audible alarms (see page 60, September HDT).
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says that over 32% of truck-at-fault injury and fatal crashes involve crossing a lane line or running off the road, making it the single-biggest cause. FMCSA's study concluded that 40% of those crashes resulted from driver inattention/distraction, fatigue or other physical ailments.
Note to insurance companies: These systems work, and that means everyone – including you – wins. Anyone buying them deserves a premium incentive, wouldn't you think?
E-mail Doug Condra at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write PO Box W. Newport Beach, Calif. 92656.