Traditionally, the new year in Brussels kicks off with the annual European Motor Show. The 2017 edition paid special attention to commercial vehicles with a dedicated Truck & Transport exhibition. ACEA took this opportunity to organise a special tour on truck safety for European policy makers and road safety experts dealing with heavy-duty vehicles. The tour highlighted the enormous progress that has been made in improving truck safety over the past years and steps that will be taken in the future.
Safety is a key priority for all of ACEA’s members. In spite of a three-fold increase in traffic, road safety in Europe has improved significantly the last 30 years. EU road fatalities have more than halved in recent years, from 54,000 in 2001 to 26,000 in 2015. When we specifically look at trucks, modern vehicles come equipped with dozens of high-tech safety systems, all making a significant contribution to further improving road safety. Since 2005, the number of fatalities in accidents involving trucks has fallen by almost 50% in Europe.
But this does not mean that the truck industry’s safety efforts are coming to a halt any time soon. On the contrary, manufacturers will continue their huge efforts and investments in safety innovation. The automotive industry is a strong advocate of further reducing road casualties and injuries; we thus support recent initiatives to update the existing EU safety rules. In light of the upcoming revision of the General Safety Regulation initiated by the European Commission, we have been actively engaged in an open and constructive dialogue with all relevant stakeholders on future policy measures – this includes our recent safety tour at the Brussels Motor Show.
This event brought together experts dealing with truck safety at the European Commission, the European Transport Safety Council, the European Union Road Federation, Polis and the Confederation of Organisations in Road Transport Enforcement. While visiting the booths of various ACEA members, truck makers showed some of the innovative safety solutions already available in today’s vehicles as well as those which will be implemented in the near future, all holding significant potential to further reduce injuries and fatalities.
Over the years, trucks have been equipped with more than 20 safety measures. Active safety systems that seek to avoid accidents or mitigate their impact by providing driver assistance make up 75% of the measures you will find in a truck. The remaining 25% consists of passive safety improvements, which are measures to reduce the impact of an accident or the level of injury. As we saw during the safety tour, about 90% of these active and passive safety systems can already be found on the latest trucks. State-of-the-art technologies that can make a sizeable contribution to further reducing accidents involving trucks include Vehicle Stability Control, the Advanced Emergency Braking System and Lane Departure Warning System.
These sophisticated technologies are now standard safety features on virtually all new trucks that hit Europe’s roads. They help to prevent tipping accidents, rear-end collisions and trucks leaving their lane unintendedly – which together account for roughly 40% of traffic fatalities that involve a truck. Research suggests that these particular safety measures could reduce fatalities and severe injuries by an additional 20% if the European truck fleet is fully modernised. It thus remains key to replace older vehicles with the newest models, not only to increase traffic safety but also to improve air quality and further cut CO2 emissions.
In years to come, one of the main focal points for further improving truck safety is the urban environment, where we see a lot of vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and people riding a bicycle. Huge progress has already been made in this field, and investments by the truck industry in larger windscreens, cameras and mirrors with a bigger range have dramatically improved drivers’ field of vision. Now, truck makers are working on advanced systems to indicate that a cyclist or pedestrian is standing next to, or in front of the vehicle.
As manufacturers, we are committed to further improving safety, especially in cities and urban areas. However, this does not only require commitment and investments from our side. Any successful approach also needs to address infrastructure, driver behaviour, traffic rules and their enforcement, as well as vehicle age and fleet composition. Road safety is a complex combination of many factors and interactions between different players. Europe needs an appropriate policy mix covering all factors and stakeholders, instead of one only concentrating on the vehicle.
ACEA fully supports the update of the General Safety Regulation and is happy that the truck industry is actively involved in the discussions. To achieve the greatest impact possible, we will have to make the right choices on safety measures. That’s why it is necessary to conduct thorough cost-benefit analyses in order to ensure that the right safety measures become mandatory for trucks, allowing us to spend the money on the most effective solutions.
As you can tell, we’ve been quite occupied with safety lately. Our tour dedicated to trucks was only one of many activities taking place in light of the on-going discussions about the General Safety Regulation, but it proved to be an excellent opportunity to witness first hand the many safety features that have already been deployed in trucks, as well as our members’ continued investments in this field.
Secretary General of ACEA