The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says a new study shows automatic breaking and other electronic warning systems could prevent two out of every five crashes involving semi trucks.

The IIHS says these systems lower speeds by over 50%, drastically reducing injuries and damage. The Institute requests that the federal government make these safety measures standard on new trucks and adds that many fleet operators are already adding emergency braking on their own trucks.

Study focuses on two safety systems

Researchers from IIHS studied nearly 2,000 crashes from 2017 to 2019, involving 62 carriers with tractor-trailers and other trucks weighing at least 33,000 pounds. They found a significant reduction in crashes for trucks equipped with:

  • Automatic emergency braking: AEBs automatically apply brakes to prevent a collision or reduce the severity. The study found trucks with AEBs had 12% fewer crashes.
  • Forward collision warning: This device uses radar, cameras and other sensors to scan the road ahead, alerting drivers to obstacles. Researchers found trucks with this technology had 22% fewer crashes.

Trucker organization disputes findings

A group representing independent truckers says it doesn’t accept the study’s conclusions. The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association says researchers did not consider several factors, such as the driver’s experience, training or the carrier’s safety record.

However, two federal agencies that oversee big rigs – the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – say they will review the IIHS report.

Protecting all drivers

While semi drivers crash less often than operators of other vehicles, large trucks involved in a crash can be extremely lethal as the vehicles weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger cars. Collisions involving big rigs have risen by nearly 33% since an all-time low in 2009. In 2018, 4,136 people died in crashes, with 119 fatalities resulting from large trucks rear-ending passenger vehicles.