Effectiveness of front crash prevention systems in reducing large truck crash rates

Teoh, Eric R.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
September 2020

Objective: Forward collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB) have the potential to prevent or mitigate many large truck crashes. While these systems are known to be effective in passenger vehicles, less is known about their effectiveness in large trucks. The objective of this study was to estimate the effectiveness of these systems in reducing real-world crash rates of large trucks.
Methods: Data on Class 8 trucks operating on limited-access highways during 2017–2019 were obtained from SmartDrive Systems. Detailed data on exposure measures and crash circumstances were extracted from video footage by both automated means and manual coding. Crash rates were compared by front crash prevention technology (FCW, AEB, neither), both for all police-reportable crashes overall and for relevant crash types.
Results: FCW was associated with a statistically significant 22% reduction in the rate of police-reportable crashes per vehicle miles traveled, and a significant 44% reduction in the rear-end crash rate of large trucks. AEB also was associated with significant reductions—12% overall and 41% for rear-end crashes. Warnings were issued in 31% of rear-end crashes for FCW-equipped trucks. AEB intervened in 43% of rear-end crashes; about two thirds of these interventions involved autobrake activations. On average, speed was reduced by over half between the time of the intervention and impact for both systems. Observed reductions in same-direction sideswipe and roadway departure crashes per mile traveled were smaller in magnitude than those of rear-end crashes; these were consistent with other crash avoidance technologies suspected to be bundled with FCW/AEB in some cases, and very few front crash prevention interventions occurred in these types of crashes.
Conclusions: FCW and AEB are effective countermeasures for crashes in which large trucks rear-end other vehicles. Large truck safety is expected to improve as new trucks are increasingly equipped with these systems. FCW has the advantage that some of these systems can be retrofitted to existing trucks, so benefits can be realized sooner and with less investment.