Since 2005, the number of traffic fatalities involving heavy trucks in the EU has declined by nearly 50%. Moreover, trucks are implicated in only about 15% of fatal road accidents in the EU today.
Still, accidents with trucks involving vulnerable road users (VRUs) such as cyclists and pedestrians are often caused by vision-related factors. For instance, when VRUs are in the blind spot of a truck. Everyone agrees that vision-related accidents should be addressed, but not all proposed measures are as effective as others.
Some argue that the direct field of view of truck drivers should be extended by modifying the entire structure of the vehicle, in order to create low-entry ‘direct vision’ cabs for trucks. This entails mounting the cabin in front of the truck’s engine instead of on top of it, which puts the driver closer to the road but reduces the available loading capacity, as well as increasing the window surface of the cabin.
However, research shows that active safety measures – using cameras and sensors to increase the driver’s field of vision – are some 50% more effective in reducing fatalities than re-designing trucks. Systems to detect vulnerable road users (such as pedestrians or cyclists), for example, can reduce fatalities by 1.53% compared to only 0.95% in the case of low-entry cabs.
Moreover, contrary to ‘direct vision’ low-entry cabs, active safety measures will actively draw the attention of the driver to the critical area or the VRUs concerned. Even with the widest possible field of view in a low-entry cabin, a truck driver can only look in one direction at a time and still might fail to notice a pedestrian or cyclist on the other side of the vehicle. Indeed, a holistic approach (combining active safety technology with improved direct and indirect vision) is much more effective than focussing on ‘low-entry’ cabs.
Another downside of ‘direct vision’ low-entry cabs is their negative impact on the load capacity of trucks, as they require major changes to the layout of a vehicle. The less transport space a truck has, the more vehicles are needed to transport the same amount of freight, which in turn would lead to an increase in CO2 emissions.