Volvo puts a truck to the test – the crash test.

Volvo puts a truck to the test – the crash test.

Video still via YouTube

You’ve probably seen video of cars crashing as part of safety tests. After all the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (part of the U.S. Department of Transportation) has been crash-testing and rating vehicles for frontal impact protection using data from crash test dummies since 1978. But what about trucks?

The federal government doesn’t run the same kinds of crash testing programs for trucks as it does for cars, but that doesn’t mean that truck makers and other safety companies aren’t out there doing such testing – and there’s plenty of fascinating YouTube video of such tests.

In 2015, NHTSA reported to Congress, as required by the The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), about the need for crashworthiness standards for heavy trucks. Some of the things that jumped out at me from a scan of the report were that the majority of fatalities in truck crashes were truck drivers, and more than half of them were not wearing a seatbelt. Three types of crashes made up 89% of the truck crashes that resulted in a fatality or severe injury to truck drivers. The most harmful events were rollovers (41%), collisions with other vehicles (33%), or collision with a hard fixed object (15%).

The report also noted that heavy truck crashworthiness research and practices have been developed through SAE International (the Society of Automotive Engineers), and that manufacturers have incorporated SAE Recommended Practices into improving cab crashworthiness. However, “given the mass, high pre-crash-speeds, and the resulting transfer of energy through the cab, significant research would be needed to determine the feasibility of new federal safety standards above the current designs and best practices.”

Instead, it appears, the agency has been pursuing technological solutions to prevent crashes, such as electronic stability control, speed limiters, automatic braking technology, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, and the recent improved stopping distance rules.

One country that does have some crashworthiness standards for heavy trucks is Sweden, so Volvo and Scania have conducted extensive crash testing on their truck cabs, and documented them in video.


This video from Alpha Squad Official highlights the testing of the Volvo VNL.

Scania has this video from 2016 of its crash testing of its new generation of trucks. (With the help of a crash test dummy named Thor).

If you want to dig into more about truck crashes, another 2015 NHTSA document looks at heavy truck injury countermeasures and has some stunning photos of real-world crashes and information about various crashworthiness testing methods.

One of the things that struck me about those government documents was the number of drivers who were killed or seriously injured because they weren’t wearing their seat belts. Far more truck drivers today are using their seat belts, but according to FMCSA’s numbers, there’s still close to 15% who aren’t – that’s still nearly one out of every seven drivers putting themselves at risk in a crash.

Back in 2014, IMMI demonstrated the important of seat belt safety by crashing the cab of a large semi-truck head-on into the largest barrier block in the world. The passenger ATD (test dummy) was not wearing a seat belt. This video has some compelling slow-motion action.

That test was done at the Center for Advanced Product Evaluation, which a couple years ago posted this video of how it remote-control put a truck into a rollover as part of more IMMI testing of its Rolltek safety-belt system. Enjoy the look behind the scenes.

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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