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Sunday, January 12, 2014

We get the "OnGuard" Electronic Collision Avoidance System

The Realization:
Our company location in Salt Lake City is getting a new fleet of 2014 Freightliner tractors that will be coming in the next few weeks. Our corporate officers have recently mandated that all new tractors will have the Meritor Wabco "OnGuard" Electronic Collision Avoidance System installed. None of our drivers or local mangers were aware of the new policy.

We got the first new tractor in this past week, which was a day cab that I went over to the shop to take a look at. I knew nothing about this system and was not aware of the new mandate until I saw the on-board display unit mounted on the dash in the tractor. Finding a brochure inside, I started reading up on it.

There is a forward facing radar device mounted on the front of the unit that monitors any moving vehicle directly ahead of the tractor. One "feature" is adaptive cruise control, which when you have the cruise on, will actually control the following distance by accelerating, decelerating, activating the engine brake and even applying the vehicle brakes as needed. The unit will not react to a fixed object, except for audio and display warnings.

Whether the cruise control is activated or not, there is a series of beeps and color changes on the screen to alert you if you are following too close. From what I have read, in the event of a high closing speed with imminent collision and no reaction from the driver, the unit will activate the engine brake and apply 50% braking force to the vehicle to try to avoid impact or reduce the severity of the crash.

The Reaction:
We had a safety meeting this past Saturday with our region safety manager flying in for it. He brought some video presentation with him to help demonstrate and explain the system. The original reaction of most of our drivers was extremely negative.

  • From hearing the comments, the biggest concern for them is the unit's ability to engage the engine Jake brake on slippery or icy roads. We drive back and forth across Wyoming year round and believe me, if you're in winter Wyoming weather and road conditions, you want full control of your vehicle at all times.
  • The next serious concern was the worry of the unit slamming on the brakes while the cruise control is on as a vehicle cuts into their following distance in front of them. Does that not leave you set up for someone to run into the back of you?
  • Finally, there is the issue of constant beeping and flashing warnings as the driver tries to maintain a 3.6 second following distance in heavy freeway traffic. If you think about it, in heavy traffic, someone is constantly cutting in front of you no matter how much distance you try and leave. If this thing is going to be constantly blaring at you, sooner or later, the driver will have to tune out and ignore it. Or slowly go insane!
We have a lot of older, mature drivers at our location that have been driving professionally all of their lives. I know being old school, technology and change can be hard. I've also had the opportunity to own a 1999 Corvette that had an active handling feature as an option. I was quite impressed with it.

The bottom line is that this change is here, directed by our corporate headquarters and no matter how the drivers feel about it, they will have to accept it or go elsewhere. Hopefully, the unit is not as intrusive as feared.

As we get some real world experience with this system, I'll keep a journal and update you on it. Meanwhile, if any of you have this equipment, your comments are always welcome. Below is a YouTube video of a company demonstration.



2 comments:

  1. As far as I know, as a bus driver, anytime you have an automatic braking system beyond your control, it could be potential disaster on slippery surfaces like "black ice" or snow etc. Either it should have an off switch for these conditions, or start counting the accidents.

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    1. Thanks brother, it will be interesting to see how these things work. Pretty scarey though!

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