“One of the most important measures of a vehicle in the work truck space is its drive and duty cycle,” said NTEA senior director, Kevin Koester. “These vehicles typically operate in a smaller, defined geographic area, during daylight hours and at slower speeds, and many spend a high percentage of operational hours parked at a work or delivery site.”
Driver safety performance and driver fatigue improvements are on the rise with the ever-increasing adoption rates of driver-assist safety technology within over-the-road fleets, as are equipment uptimes and boosted crash avoidance and prevention.
For vocational vehicles, like those in public transit, utility trucks, and dump trucks, many are in the early stages of their safety tech implementation and will see further adoption as soon as these technology advancements are shown to be “making it easier to incorporate the systems into vocational trucks,” Koester added. He also explained that crash and safety incident-reducing systems like collision mitigation are hard to pass up for these companies, as this tech can “keep more of the fleet mission-capable.”
“The market defines what is successful,” Koester noted. “Features like automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, increased use of camera systems, and simple reverse sensors all are working to reduce incidents and keep the driver and the vehicle on the road” and safe.
Product marketing manager for Daimler Trucks North America’s Detroit hub, Len Copeland, explained that as job site safety demands increase for vocational drivers, these kinds of tech innovations are becoming much more commonplace. For example, the first vocational chassis utilizing the Detroit Assurance suite of safety and driver assistance systems–the Western Star 49X–is now becoming the standard for vocational fleets.
“Uptime is everything in the vocational market,” Copeland said. “With vocational equipment being so specialized, there is not typically a backup vehicle sitting in a compound waiting to go to work Even minor accidents–such as a low-speed, rear-end collision with another vehicle on the way to a job site–can be expensive in terms of lost hours. Entire projects are at risk of coming to a standstill with out-of-commission specialized trucks.”
Because of this, these trucks are seeing the adoption of new safety technology more quickly than ever.
“Safety features and active safety systems are one of the fastest growing options with customers, [and] demand for advanced safety systems is rising among vocational truck users,” Copeland explained.
Still, implementing advanced safety systems can inevitably raise insurance premiums, Mack Trucks construction product manager, Tim Wrinkle, said.
“In general, after factoring in all the costs associated with an accident, preventing even a single accident far exceeds the investment in the active safety features for collision avoidance,” he explained.
Additional crash costs and property damage may also rise dramatically, Wrinkle added, but having that safety tech onboard is still vital. Because vocational trucks spend so long on job sites, those with a dynamic load or a particularly high center of gravity must have electronic stability control.
“We continue to see an increase each year in the number of vocational customers [speculating] Mack [Road Stability Advantage],” he said.
The vocational market has other major differences in comparison to other fleets, added vice president of Navistar Inc.’s vocational truck business, Mark Stasell.
“You not only have to keep the driver safe, but also the people on the job site,” he said. “You might have people pouring concrete, laying forms, or troweling cement, so you have to worry about them [interacting with the truck] in addition to the driver.”
Additionally, vocational trucks not only have two duty cycles of low-speed maneuverability and high-speed lane keeping, but they also have job site-specific duty cycles that differ greatly in each kind of application with various equipment configurations–which can impact the installation of safety systems.
“There are so many different niches of duty cycles that help determine which of these technologies can walk across [to the vocational market]” said director of ADAS and Autonomy for ZF Group’s commercial vehicle division, Dan Williams. “A lot of times, the configuration is varied, like wheelbase, height, [and] windshield angle, which is important for cameras. So, when you look at a lot of these [applications], it’s based on sensors and systems [that need to be] developed for specific sensor locations.”