After a nearly two-year research process, United Parcel Service is making collision mitigation technology a standard feature on every new Class 8 tractor it orders from this point forward – including the 2,600 units ordered and expected to be deployed by the parcel carrier this year.
“For us, this technology really validates the intense training received by our drivers,” Emilio Lopez, the company’s health & safety manager for the southeast region, told Fleet Owner here at a demonstration event hosted by UPS and Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, which is supplying the Wingman Advanced collision mitigation package the parcel carrier is deploying on its tractors.
“If the system goes off, it’s telling the driver something has significantly changed around them and gets them to refocus immediately on the situation,” Lopez said. “You almost can’t put a dollar value on avoiding or reducing the severity of a crash. [This technology] gives us an opportunity to reduce risk not only for our people but the general public as well. So why not go do this?”
UPS said the Wingman package it is adding to all of its new Class 8 tractors include: Bendix’s AutoVue lane departure warning system; electronic stability control (ESC) through Bendix’s electronic stability program or “ESP” offering; Blindspotter side detection radar; and a forward-view radar system for collision mitigation and avoidance.
The Wingman system UPS is installing also features adaptive cruise control, which will maintain a constant distance between its tractors and vehicles in front of them via brake activation and engine de-powering. Secondary benefits of active cruise include reducing the accordion effect caused by traffic and, from that, enhanced fuel economy, Bendix noted.
Each new UPS Class 8 tractor will also feature automated manual transmissions (AMTs), the parcel carrier noted, as eliminating the need to shift gears provides the driver with greater opportunity to implement its defensive driving techniques – techniques taught via a rigorous training program.
Two veteran UPS drivers were on hand at the Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk where Bendix provided them and reporters the chance to ride along in and test drive trucks equipped with the Wingman system – including the latest version, Wingman Fusion, which UPS is currently evaluating.
Paul Savill (at left), a 17-year veteran driver with UPS Freight – the parcel carrier’s LTL division – and an America’s Road Team Captain, explained to Fleet Owner that he expects collision mitigation technology to serve as a “second set of eyes” for him while plying his routes in Cincinnati, OH.
“I’m not relying on this technology to make my driving decisions; in fact I never plan on ever using it,” he stressed. “But once a vehicle is on the road, if some completely unexpected situation happens, this system can act as another layer of safety for me and the other drivers around me.”
Savill also compared the collision mitigation technology to the “reserve parachute” used in airborne operations. “You never expect to use that parachute but it is there if something goes really wrong,” he emphasized.
Bill Lazarski, a 39-year UPS veteran who has operated everything from parcel vans to highway tractors during his career at Big Brown, believes the ultimate benefit of the parcel carrier’s adoption of collision mitigation technology is in the reinforcement and sustainment of good driving habits.
“Our Chicago hub got 10 of these trucks to test and at first some of the systems, like lane departure warning, seemed annoying,” he told Fleet Owner. “But what it’s really doing is refocusing you on your driving habits.”
As an example, Lazarski (at right) noted the lane departure alert went off his right side along one particular turn he encounters two or three times while piloting his proscribed route.
“What I found after refocusing is that my normal line-of-sight on that turn is hindered and that, as a result, the path I took around it departed from the lane – and I didn’t know it,” he said. “That’s where I see the value in this system: it assists me to help make me an even better driver. It’s not end-all/be-all technology, but it’s a great help especially when I am operating in busy traffic areas.”
UPS added that several government studies are encouraging the broader adoption of collision mitigation technology, pointing in particular to a special report compiled by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that said “collision warning systems, particularly when paired with active braking, could significantly reduce the frequency and severity of rear-end crashes.”
“Safety is of the utmost importance to UPS. We’re investing in technology that provides UPS drivers with opportunities to increase visibility of their surroundings in constantly changing environments,” noted Randy Stashick, president of engineering for UPS, in a statement. “The safety benefits of these technologies make incorporating them into UPS’s fleet the right thing to do for our employees and fellow motorists,” he added.