Although crucial to the workings of our society, trucks are often demonised by the general public. One of the clichés that are hard to shake off is that the truck is a major source of accidents. For road safety week, the time has come to put this prejudice to bed. Based on statistics, the truck is pretty much top of the class in terms of road safety. By continually improving the quality and reliability of its trucks from design onwards, Renault Trucks is leading the way in the safety field. Conscious of its responsibilities with, on average, 80,000 vehicles sold per year, the French commercial vehicle manufacturer has made safety one of its permanent priorities. This, results in the search for and integration of increasingly high-performance solutions for the products and services it puts on the market.
-Fact: the truck is a good performer on road safety. The case of France
In 2008, trucks accounted for only 3.2% of vehicles involved in accidents involving injury and 7% of total traffic (71% for cars).
From 1997 to 2008, the number of accidents with injury involving heavy duty vehicles fell by almost 50%.
The rate of involvement of trucks in accidents (number of accidents per billion kilometres covered) has fallen almost 9-fold since 1980 and proportionally remains much lower than that of cars (theirs has fallen 6.1 times).Source : France figures – Union routière de France
-Cutting edge accidentology
Renault Trucks in France is involved in accidentology studies with the European centre of studies on safety and risk analysis (CEESAR). Through detailed accident studies, the centre generates data explaining the causes and injury consequences of accidents and identifying research themes to prevent or limit their seriousness. This engenders action priorities to develop mechanisms which have a real influence on improving road safety (car/truck impacts; car/other non-car road users impacts; protection of people onboard trucks).
Active safety refers to mechanisms designed to avoid accidents. These include braking, slowing, and trajectory maintenance systems, amongst others. Renault Trucks’ achievements in this area concern different safety points on the vehicle. Because of its weight, slowing the truck down is a crucial safety criterion. This has been constantly improved in terms of performance and response time. As we speak, Optibrake the Renault Trucks exhaust brake is the most powerful on the market with a retardant power of 380kW. Renault Truck brakes are electronically controlled (EBS): an ABS coupled with a stress distribution management system on a wheel-by-wheel braking basis according to road surface conditions. In the same vein, dynamic vehicle control is provided by trajectory maintenance mechanisms and anti-tip-over and jack-knife mechanisms which are delivered by the electronic stability programme (ESP).
As a safety hotspot for Renault Trucks, the driver is at the heart of all their work and different systems are at hand to help the driver maintain constant vigilance. The objective is to give the driver the right information at the right time. Renault Trucks sells an “intelligent” speed control system developed in-house. A single box contains three functions. Headway Monitoring & Warning (HMW) to automatically keep safety distances between vehicles. It alerts the driver when the distance from the vehicle in front is not sufficient. Forward Collision Warning (FCW) warns of imminent collisions. The mechanism analyses the distance between the truck and the vehicle in front and their respective speeds. It warns the driver 2.7 seconds prior to a collision risk, i.e. the time it takes to avoid an accident. Finally, Lane Departure Warning (LDW) is used to counter poor road positioning or a sudden change of lane. It issues a warning a half-second before the vehicle crosses the lane line and only if the indicator is not on. This system allows the driver to improve road positioning, encourages systematic use of the indicator and can be extremely useful in poor visibility.
Finally, research efforts are focusing on visibility aids, in particular using integrated camera rear-view mirrors and detectors and cameras in blind-spots. Furthermore, Renault Trucks’ research teams are continually experimenting with new real time communication and information exchange projects between vehicles and infrastructures.
Passive safety refers to mechanisms to alleviate the consequences of accidents. Renault Trucks’ research primarily concerns a set of mechanisms. Run-under mechanisms, particularly in front, which have been compulsory since 2003, have already saved numerous lives. Renault Trucks is working on heightened energy absorption capacity systems which increase still further the number of human lives saved.
Cab crumpling on impact avoids substantial damage. Renault Trucks has considerably improved this feature so as to optimise the vital space around the driver. As for cab design, parts that can injure the driver upon impact have been identified and modified using highly sophisticated materials.
The protection of “vulnerable users” (pedestrians and two-wheelers) in the urban environment. Reducing the consequences of accidents for these road users is a central concern for the company, and projects are in progress to develop truck design and architecture accordingly.
Renault Trucks dreams up solutions to improve personal safety for its customers as well as for drivers exposed to work-related accident risks linked to the operation or maintenance of a vehicle with the development of electronic fifth wheels for totally safe coupling of semi-trailers, the development of ‘parking brake lock alarms, secured access to the rear of the cab.
-Road safety is everybody’s business
Car drivers’ stricter respect of speed limits and the increased technical capabilities of trucks have resulted in greater traffic fluidity. The truck creates fewer stoppages in traffic than before and seems to be better accepted by other road users.
Nevertheless, this behaviour cannot come from the manufacturers alone. It now requires a coordinated approach between all road safety actors with improved infrastructure, user behaviour, better training, the involvement of the public authorities and so forth. This is precisely the objective of the approach adopted in the research programme in which Renault Trucks is involved, as part of a French programme (PREDIT) and European programmes (PCRD) and the LUTB competitiveness cluster.
Photo 1 : Renault Premium Optifuel
photos 2-3 : Intelligent speed control system by Renault Trucks with HMW, FCW and LDW
photos 3-4 : Renault Magnum