Trucks are designed to protect their occupants in a crash. Collision repair professionals need...

Trucks are designed to protect their occupants in a crash. Collision repair professionals need to understand the energies that travel through the cab in a collision.

Screen shot, IMMI YouTube video

What happens in the first 100 milliseconds of a truck crash? That’s what 3M’s John Spoto wants collision repair professionals to think about.

I chatted with Spoto ahead of next week’s HD Repair Forum event, taking place in Ft. Worth, Texas, April 2-3. The new event is meant to educate those involved in collision repair work on large vehicles, primarily in Classes 5, 6, 7, and 8. I was intrigued by the name of Spoto’s session, “What Happens in 100 Milliseconds During a Collision.”

“If you’re repairing trucks like you did 20 years ago, you’re in trouble,” he told me. “You might even be in trouble if you’re repairing trucks like you did five years ago or even a year ago.”

That’s because truck designs are changing rapidly, from designers changing how the truck reacts in a collision in order to better protect the driver, to the use of advanced steels that react differently to welding than regular steel, to the use of lighter-weight materials to save fuel and meet greenhouse gas emissions regulations.

His presentation at HD Repair Forum will focus on the tremendous energies that surge through a truck in the 100 milliseconds after it collides with something.

“What happens is that during the time of the impact, collision energy starts to follow a path of what the engineers design. The reason they design that is to keep that driver safe. But what goes on during that time is that energy travels, and a lot of items are being affected.”

Not just the crumpled metal you can see, but also foams, seam sealers, rivet attachments, adhesives and other components within the cab, are affected.

The people repairing these trucks, he said, need to think about what will happen if they don’t replace the seam sealer and it has a crack in it, or the fact that the holes those rivets or other fasteners were in have been stretched. In fact, some fasteners are only designed for one-time use, Spoto noted.

"As they write these repair plans, do they consider all tis stuff?" Spoto said. "They’re so busy; the customer wants the truck back on the road. My goal is to get them to think."

Spoto is the national heavy-duty truck/commercial fleet manager for 3M. Back at the Technology & Maintenance Council annual meeting in 2017, I had the opportunity to visit 3M’s booth and learn about their efforts to help bring a lot of the techniques and technologies for collision repair into heavy-duty trucking, including the introduction of Commercial Truck Standard Operating Collision Repair Procedures, which offer step-by-step guidance. Many are also available in video format on its website.

And education is what the HD Repair Forum is all about as well. HDT Aftermarket Editor Denise Rondini wrote about the event a few months ago, noting that the founders found a “lack of information available that specifically addressed the needs of the heavy-duty segment of collision repair. Whether it is information on estimating, parts, labor, equipment, training or even repair procedures, there just are not as many resources available to those involved in repairing big trucks following an accident” as there are for cars.

For fleets, whether you’re doing your own repair work or relying on a dealer or body shop to handle it, it can be only good news that these types of resources are becoming available.

If you want to get a good visual for how that kinetic energy travels through a truck cab, check out this video from IMMI:


About the author
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Editor and Associate Publisher

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology.

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