Roadways could soon be a little safer as used trucks equipped with advanced safety technologies trickle into dealerships.
Truck makers began adding collision avoidance and automatic emergency braking as part of advanced driver assistance systems for the 2018 model year. Those trucks are being swapped for even safer models.
“All those builds getting added to order boards are going to begin being delivered as soon as January,” said Mary Aufdemberg, Daimler Trucks North America president and general manager of remarketing. “Model year ’18 will be very popular.”
About a third of 2018 Freightliner Cascadia Class 8 models were built with the Detroit Assurance 4.0 suite of safety technologies. Detroit Assurance 5.0 that includes optional Level Two automated driving features debuted for the 2020 model year.
“Not everybody is going to be able to get their hands on them. But for any of the used truck customers that like to be a technology leader, the New Cascadia is going to be something they want to keep their eyes on,” Aufdemberg said. “They are not in the majority. That’s why they are in such high demand.”
About 75% of 2019 Cascadias were built with advanced safety systems. Greater numbers will show up in used truck channels in 2022, she said.
A new safety spec
The demand for safety technology resembles what happened with automated manual transmissions (AMTs). Initial acceptance was slow. But as new drivers lacking experience enroll in driving schools, AMTs now account for about 90% of on-highway transmissions.
“We’re in an interesting spot where the fleet is young and demand is strong. What’s different from an equipment standpoint is this modern must-have spec,” Kenny Vieth, ACT Research president and senior analyst, told FreightWaves.
Fleets flush with cash from the current boom in freight rates embrace safety upgrades they once saw as inflating the total cost of ownership.
“When people say they’ve had a 50% reduction in front-end collisions, that’s definitely along the lines of what we’ve seen,” Marc Boyle, co-president of Billerica, Massachusetts-based Boyle Transportation, told FreightWaves. “That merits the investment right away.”
Boyle is a specialized shipper of vaccines, including Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine. Its fleet of about 100 trucks consists mostly of Cascadias with the latest advanced safety equipment.
“For 20 years, we’ve been huge proponents of proven safety technology because of what we’re transporting,” said Boyle. “I don’t understand why people would purchase a truck without that stuff in place.”
Vieth said 3-year-old and 4-year-old trucks have “really done a nice job of holding their value.” He estimates 35%-40% of new trucks purchased since 2017 include advanced safety equipment.
A difference on the road
Safety advocates think road safety could improve as trucks get safer.
“This will help to improve safety considering the amount of research that clearly demonstrates significant crash reductions for trucks equipped with driver assistance technologies,” Harry Adler, principal at the Institute for Safer Trucking, told FreightWaves.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released findings of a study into truck safety technology in September. It found forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems could eliminate more than 40% of rear-end collisions.
“It’s good news for safety that more trucks that may have the latest safety tech are entering the secondary market,” said Eric Teoh, IIHS director of statistical services and lead researcher in large truck safety. “We encourage fleets and owner-operators, whether purchasing new or used, to shop for these proven safety technologies that have been shown to reduce crash risk.”
Crash statistics climb
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration statistics, however, show truck crashes are still slowly rising. The latest available data showed more Class 7 and 8 truck registrations and crashes in 2018. The number of miles traveled remained largely consistent.
The total number of crashes — including those with fatalities, injuries or property damage only — saw double-digit percent increases year over year and for the preceding 10 years overall.
“Driver assistance safety technologies alone are no substitute for safe driving practices,” said Fred Andersky, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems director of demos, sales and service training. “The statistics show that crash numbers have climbed even as technology advanced. Therefore, comprehensive driver training on vehicle safety technologies is more important than ever.”
Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV) said Tuesday it is adding the latest version of the Bendix Wingman Fusion system. It will be standard on its International LT and RH Series trucks. The safety suite includes multilane automatic emergency braking and enhanced adaptive cruise control.
More safety-enhanced trucks coming
The pandemic practically zeroed out new truck orders in the spring. It sidelined as many as 100,000 drivers. They were either laid off or scared of contracting COVID.
“I think that could provide more supply into the marketplace because some of those vehicles won’t get traded in as quickly,” Aufdemberg said. “It gives us some opportunity while those trucks are idle. I think it’s bringing some newer owner-operators into the marketplace. Their first place to buy would be used trucks.”
Freightliner dealers have six years training fleets on advanced safety systems. Adapting those lessons to used truck buyers is easy, Aufdemberg said.
“On the used truck side, the challenge is a little smaller. We’re not having to train a fleet of 1,000 new drivers. The place we really have to pay attention to is making sure people understand what model year they’re getting into.”