New Technology Boosts Performance, Safety to Truck Fleet

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Con-way Freight, a truck carrier based in Ann Arbor, has deployed new safety technology, including event recorders and a real-time, on-board performance management system, in its 8,600-truck fleet. The approach is similar to how professional athletes and coaches use video and real-time data to identify performance techniques that can be improved, says Tom Clark, Con-way’s senior vice president of operations.

“It’s a fundamental shift in our approach,” Clark says. “Before we reacted after-the-fact, analyzing accidents and why they occurred. Now we’ve flipped the process, focusing instead on using technology and real-time information as a positive, proactive coaching experience to adjust behaviors, remove risk, prevent incidents, and improve safety.”

Hard braking, turning, or rapid deceleration trips the event recorders, Clark says. When activated, the recorders save a 12-second audio and visual recording that is later used to help drivers recognize exceptional defensive-driving performance and provide coaching to improve driving skills. Early results show that as more drivers receive coaching, the number of safety-related events and the severity of events decline, Clark says.

Likewise, the on-board performance management system provides real-time feedback — based on vehicle, road, load, and environmental conditions — that helps the driver employ best practices for fuel-efficient driving. Combined with other fuel-saving initiatives, the on-board performance management system is expected to improve the fleet’s fuel economy by up to 4 percent.

“These systems provide direct, real-time feedback; you can immediately see and understand unsafe behavior,” said Mick Galbraith, a professional truck driver with Con-way for more than 26 years. “It’s an opportunity to learn and correct something before it leads to an accident. That’s a real benefit that makes the driver a better operator and the roads safer for everyone.”

The company chose to adopt the additions to the fleet’s Drive Safe Systems — which already included lane departure warning, rolling stability control, and collision avoidance — after a pilot-testing program with several dozen drivers, Clark says. 

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