A new study from the Institute for Highway Safety made its rounds across the internet this week, claiming that front crash prevention systems could reduce 40% of truck rear-end crashes. But the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) says it isn’t so sure about the accuracy of the claims.  

The report was released on Thursday, September 3rd and assesses the effectiveness of front crash prevention systems in preventing large truck crashes. The study states that “forward collision warning systems were associated with a 22% reduction in the rate of police-reportable crashes per vehicle miles traveled.” Automatic emergency braking (AEB)  systems are also said to reduce overall crashes by 12% and rear-end crashes by 41%. 

Each of these systems uses cameras, sensors, and other technology to monitor the roadway, alerting the driver to obstacles and even taking control away from the driver in certain situations. 

“(Forward collision warning) and AEB are effective countermeasures for crashes in which large trucks rear-end other vehicles,” IIHS concluded. “Large truck safety is expected to improve as new trucks are increasingly equipped with these systems. (Forward collision warning) has the advantage that some of these systems can be retrofitted to existing trucks, so benefits can be realized sooner and with less investment.”

The recent study uses data from 62 carriers and 2,000 crashes, omitting less serious ‘fender benders’ from the data. 

After going through the study, Andrew King, research analyst for the OOIDA Foundation, says that the 40% figure may be misleading or even untrue. King states that, of the 2,000 crashes included in the study, only 11% of them were caused by a truck rear-ending another vehicle – meaning that the crash prevention systems worked in 40% of only 11% of the crashes studied.  

“How many times did it actually prevent a crash?” King asks. “How many times did it actually reduce the severity of a crash? We don’t know. It just states this figure without explaining how they got there.”

Additionally, the OOIDA points out that data from only five crashes over a three year period was used to make the claim that forward collision warning systems may reduce the speed of a truck involved in a crash.

“It hardly seems reasonable to make safety recommendations for an entire industry based on five crashes,” OOIDA said in a statement. “While it may be tempting to accept IIHS’s claims and accept AEB and (forward collision warning) as an easy way to improve highway safety, the truth is not so simple. Before promoting systems that take control of a truck out of a driver’s hands, Congress should listen to the concerns that drivers have raised about these systems, including false or unexpected system activation, which can create its own hazards. Further evaluation of these technologies in practical driving settings is clearly needed.”

Prior to the study, truckers were already voicing concerns over the effectiveness of these technological safety advances, claiming that taking away control from the driver can be dangerous, especially when the technology is still so finicky. Drivers making this point specifically cite instances where the AEB was suddenly activated when no threat was present. This sudden and unnecessary reduction of speed out of the driver’s control could lead to a crash in itself. 

The study itself mentions that forward collision warning systems were triggered in only 31% of crashes where the truck rear-ended another vehicle, and AEB systems were triggered only 26% of the time. Driver experience, history, weather, and road conditions were also not factors considered in the study. 

The US Department of Transportation data states that less than 3% of the over 4,000 people killed in crashes involving a large truck were the result of a truck rear-ending another vehicle. The data does not mention which party was at fault in these cases.