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Columbus Freight Hauler Uses Technology To Reduce Roadway Collisions.

A Columbus freight terminal is equipping its fleet of tractor-trailers with what it calls life-saving technology designed to avoid some highway collisions. The new motion detectors are being tested at Conway freight on Westbelt Drive.

Every day between 175 and 180 trucks come in and out of the Conway freight terminal just of Roberts Road...including veteran driver Tom Smith. He's been behind the wheel for 27 years. He drives to Charleston and back to Columbus on weekdays and lately he's been operating one of eleven Conway trucks that features a device on the bumper that keeps track of distance and speed on both his truck and any vehicle in front of him.

"Its awesome, an awesome system. It'll...anybody cuts in front of you, it applies the brakes. The tractor will slowdown to try to avoid the collision. It still steers straight but it applies the brakes for you."

Smith says, so far he's had only a few instances in which the so-called adaptive cruise control has activated.

"There's a monitor on the dash and it tells me how far the vehicle in front of me is. How fast its traveling and if I start to gain on that the system automatically backs the unit down to where I don't even have to apply my brake if I don't want to but obviously you still have to pay attention and do what you need to do."

Service Center manager, Mike Potter, says the decision to install the technology on its truck cabs comes as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is considering stricter safety rules for the trucking industry.

"There's a lot of concerns in our industry in general with hours of service and fatigue with employees. And, this system. like I said, it really improves their ability to perform their daily functions in a safe and efficient manner."

Federal studies show the most common incidences of crashes involving commercial trucks are front-end collisions. The new technology now being installed on some trucks temporarily takes command of the vehicle away from the driver when a collision is imminent. But, Potter and Smith both express doubts that future technological advancements will eventually make truck drivers obsolete.

"With the way technology is going nowadays, you know, nothing is, I think, out of the question. But I don't see how you could actually pull a driver out of one of these cabs given the net weight of the equipment they're operating, the motoring public around them as well as the inclement weather conditions and road conditions that they face on a daily basis. I think you really need a qualified driver behind the wheel." Says Potter.

"I don't know, thats a pretty serious question." Smith adds. "I don't know if that can happen because of all the different variables with just the motorists out there. You just, you don't know what they're going to do. They just forget what they're doing half the time and half the time they've got a cell phone up their ear and that just makes them a little more stupid.....(slight laughter)"

Potter says during the testing period for the eleven trucks outfitted with the collision-avoidance technology, Conway is not keeping track of near misses.

Tom Borgerding WOSU News