“Road safety is something which concerns all of us, because every day, you open the newspapers and see pictures of accidents all around the world,” Johannes Faatz, head of Business Development, Daimler Commercial Vehicles MENA FZE tells delegates during the Truck & Fleet Conference UAE.
Before leaving for the Radisson Red venue he had seen yet another story of an accident on the roads of the UAE. “It was just yesterday night in Fujairah. Luckily only an injury, so no fatality, but it’s a omnipresent topic, it’s everywhere in the world.”
Like most of the transport and logistics industry, Daimler and Faatz believe one accident, is one too many.
“We do not want to see pictures like that. We do not want to read headlines like this.”
Fortunately, Faatz believes that progress is being made in the region, even if more could be done.
“There are a lot of initiatives going on and we also see that here in the region initiatives can pay off,” he remarks, adding a caveat that statistics involving heavy vehicles are not always easy to find.
“However just a few weeks ago there was an interesting article where you could see the number of road accidents and the number of fatalities in Oman. These are not heavy truck accidents but you can see from 2012 to 2018, that there is a significant decline of 66 percent in five years.
“However, you see that the number of deaths is not decreasing in the same manner. So, the number of accidents is declining, the number of fatalities is not declining as much…and of course, each accident, and each fatality is one too much because this person has a family, has partners, and so on.”
Like Oman, the host country of this year’s Truck & Fleet Conference UAE is seeing that accident numbers are slowing down.
“From 2018-2019, it went from 15 people who died on the roads in Dubai to 11, but, still, it’s 11 too much,” he says and then adds that most manufacturers are cooperating with authorities to try to get information on what the reasons are for these accidents. “It’s quite challenging to get this data, however, in the European market, if we look into the types of series truck accidents, we see that one-third of them are rear-end collisions and nearly, 40% of them are truck guidance accidents.
“If we look a little bit deeper into that, we see that the rear end collisions have nearly 40% of cases where no brake was applied. That means, the truck went with full speed into the obstacle… that’s a 40t vehicle at 80km/h…what that means for the person in front for the vehicle in front. We also see that in that 40% of cases there were vehicles going into the stage of an emergency brake. However, they still hit the obstacle, there was still an accident but, for sure, a much more minor impact than if there was no brake at all.”
Data from trucks is proving vital in unravelling the complexities of why accidents happen.
And Faatz says that it is showing when a driver’s attention has wavered or simply lost control of the vehicle. He suggests that one-third of accidents could be avoided all together if the driver is fully aware of the danger ahead: “If you are attentive, you can still react.”
Road safety is at the core of Daimler’s vehicle development and driving its advances in technology such as Active Brake Assist and Active Sideguard Assist. While it is primarily concerned with protecting road users it is also focused on the financial ramifications for fleets when accidents happen.
“Each accident, of course, has consequences. There are repair costs. There are insurance rates which will be adjusted with each accident. There is the load, which is lost in such an accident but much, more important than that there are human beings involved,” he remarks.
“There is also the company’s reputation. You don’t want to be on the headline. And of course, for the operators, there is the unplanned downtime. Every accident means the truck has to go to the workshop and needs to be repaired or even perhaps lost completely.”
The truck industry continues to work on ways of reducing the risk of accidents, particularly dangerous rear-end collisions. Faatz runs through a list of technology that has been introduced, often on a mandatory basis, in the past couple of decades, including ABS.
The electronic braking system has been a major advancement. Gone are the days of a purely hydraulically powered brake, says Faatz, noting that this must be installed on all trucks in some markets, such as Europe.
“Now the impulse is getting to the brake much quicker than before that’s for sure an enhancement.”
It has been a decade since electric stability control (ESC) or electric stability program (ESP) systems, where vehicle stability is controlled by a computerised system, was made mandatory in the US and in Europe (in 2012). He is hugely supportive or both industry and governmental moves to improve safety.
“There has been a big, big step forward in order to avoid rear-end collisions,” Faatz remarks, but adds that new active safety systems technology is now taking truck safety forwards at a rapid, if controlled, pace.
“Vehicles above three and a half tons now need to have an advanced emergency braking system in Europe and rules to reduce the speed by 20% (came in 2018). ESP remains well-known but we also now have Lane keeping assist for instance…we were seeing a lot of straying off the streets as a reason for an accident.”
He continues: “Data might vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but in our field study, we found out that we have 50% less injuries if vehicles are equipped with active safety systems. Also, if you look into the cost of an accident, that we can be reduced even further by having active safety systems on our vehicles.”
Faatz says that accident costs can be reduced by as much as 90% when the systems are installed, and Daimler has been instrumental in the development of active brake assist. He says that having introduced the system in 2006, the latest fifth generation of the technology which launched with with the New Actros goes beyond the existing European legislation.
“With the fifth generation, we are able to have a vehicle which breaks to a full standstill whether it detects a moving or stationary obstacles. As well as pedestrians.”
He adds that Daimler has been successfully demonstrating the Active Brake Assist (ABA 5) system alongside its local partners in the region.
“I personally was in walking in front of the truck or sitting behind the steering wheel and had somebody else walking in front of the truck. It’s quite an interesting feeling. I can tell you. It’s really an amazing feature.”
Enthused he says ABA 5 is also now available on sister-brand Fuso trucks, he explains.
“Fuso is now also the first manufacturer to launch this feature on a medium duty range. It’s not here in the region at the moment, but we will move forward as well here in the region.”
“Safety is one of our key elements,” he says firmly. “We worked on that well, in advance, and we are not waiting for the regulation to come up to the system’s level.”
Daimler now has an array of safety technology loaded onto its latest trucks. Every fleet can install Active Brake Assist (ABA 5), Sideguard Assist with pedestrian and cyclist detection, Active Drive Assist for partially automated driving (SAE level 2) as well as the much-lauded MirrorCam systems that was demonstrated at the 2019 Truck & Fleet Conference.
He recalls that that event was an opportunity to showcase the region’s first semi-autonomous driving vehicle after it had completed a series of test runs, including marathon haul between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
“We wanted to show that the technology is possible here in the region as well because the main tests are done in our home markets in Europe, in North America and in Japan. But we decided at that point in time that we want to show that the UAE is ready for this technology. We showed that it is possible to have a truck driving semi-autonomously.
“We proved that with the support of some of our partners in the industry, it was possible. It is available for sale. We are not talking about a technology which is only available in five years or in 10 years. Customer who is interested in that can buy it now.”
On the theme of new technology in the market, June saw the roll-out of the new Active Side Guard Assist system – which features an automated braking function that not only warns the driver but initiates an automated braking manoeuvre until the vehicle comes to a standstill – on the Actros and Arocs.
Faatz explains that if a truck is turning around the corner and there is somebody in the blind spot the vehicle will stop automatically.
“This is one of the main causes of accidents in Europe when you have a bicycle next to the truck. The truck driver can’t see the person on the right side.”
Additional windows installed in the truck cab are compulsory in certain countries but he says Daimler does not believe that this it is enough.
“That’s why we went to the next level with the Active Side Guard Assist system.”
To emphasise why Daimler is committing its vast resources to improve vehicle safety technology, he turns to the impact of mixing them with regulation has had in Europe.
“In 2001, we had a certain number of road accidents and we were able to reduce the number of road fatalities by 50%. The European commission is setting very ambitious targets of a further 50% reduction but we will most likely not be able to achieve this figure.
So it’s not only about having these systems inside the vehicle, or providing these systems, there are a lot of people involved in making roads safer and in order to reduce accidents.”
Faatz believes the onus is now on the industry and its stakeholders. Whether you are an OEM, a fleet operators, a driver, it is your responsibility to do what you can to save lives.
He argues that a lot of work should be done to improve truck driving training.
“I think we as a manufacturer we have to offer more driver training; we have to offer more education to drivers. We are pushing that. We support that with every vehicle when it is handed over. It’s not just handing over the key, there needs to be a complete introduction to the vehicle because if the driver does not know what systems he or she has, how should they use it? So that’s key.”
Beyond the training, telematics in the market, such as the Fleetboard system offered by Daimler, should be used by more fleets to control how the drivers are interacting with the vehicle and “how is he or she using the engine brake.”
He continues: “Are there any harsh braking activities? We use that in order than to further educate drivers.
“I think there is a bunch of possibilities but it has to be done. Yeah, we have to offer that. The customer has to accept that the driver needs to have the time in order to do that. It has to be a joint activity.”
Read our complete coverage of the Truck & Fleet Conference UAE in the July issue of Truck & Fleet Middle East magazine out next week.