If you are going to host a demonstration of your safety technology, it’s probably wise to have safety in general as an overall theme of your event. I was immediately made aware of the importance of safety when I recently attended one of the many regional demonstrations Bendix has held over the past 14 years.
Upon arrival at the venue — a local airport in Sugar Grove, IL — Fred Andersky, manager, Bendix Demo team, began laying out the safety rules of the day for the participants. Displays of various Bendix safety technologies were set up in one of the airport hangars. Ropes were used to designate areas that were off limits and attendees, who would be shuttled to an inactive runway throughout the day, were told to wait for instructions from Bendix staff before getting on the bus to drive them out the demo area. Getting to the demo area in this case included crossing an active runway so an airport vehicle accompanied the bus and only allowed it to cross the active runway when it was safe to do so.
As we headed out to the demo area, Andersky reminded us that we were dealing with driver assistance systems not driver replacement systems, emphasizing the fact that the driver is still a very key element in the safe operation of a Class 8 vehicle.
Once in the demo, vehicle seat belts were mandatory for everyone, even those of us sitting in what would normally be the bunk area. When Bendix says they are about safety, they mean it.
During the demo, a professional driver trailed a passenger car and went through a series of exercises demonstrating how various Bendix safety technologies worked in situations where the truck was following the car and both vehicles were traveling at a relatively slow speed, when they were traveling at a high rate of speed and when the truck came upon a vehicle stopped in the lane of traffic. In every instance the technology preformed flawlessly, although I have to admit my heart was in my throat a few times as I feared we were approaching the car way too quickly to stop.
I had a very interesting conversation with the driver of the truck that explained he had to “unlearn” good driving habits in order to allow the technology to take over during the demos to stop the truck.
Clearly this is not what you want to have happen everyday, but there is comfort in knowing the systems perform as designed.
He said it took a while to get over his natural inclination as a safe driver not to put his foot on the brake when he first saw that the truck he was driving was getting too close to the vehicle in front of him.
I spoke with some other attendees at the demo to hear their reactions. All were very impressed with what they had seen. I heard things like:
- “This was a great experience. I am surprised this technology is not mandatory.”
- “I came to learn more about the technology; knowledge is everything.”
- “I wanted to see for myself how the technology worked and I am impressed with what I saw here today.”
Back in the hangar, I spent some time going through the various technologies that were on display and speaking with knowledgeable Bendix employees about how the technologies worked and the benefits they provide.
Stations covered the following technologies:
- AutoVue® Lane Departure Warning System
- Air disc brakes
- BlindSpotter® Side Object Detection System
- Wingman® Advanced™/Wingman® Fusion™ collision mitigation systems
- Intellipark™ Electronic Parking Brake
Again I had a chance to speak with Bendix customers who are using these technologies. There was a lot of talk about SafetyDirect and its ability to capture data and video about driving behavior. The fleet managers at the demo said having the information allowed them to coach drivers, and they have seen driver behavior improve as a result of seeing actual video of any incidents such as hard braking in which they were involved. As one attendee said, “Once we show them the video, they can see for themselves what they did and they become better drivers as a result.”
There is an old adage that seeing is believing. In the case of the Bendix safety technology demos that is very true. And seeing the technology from the cab of the truck makes you realize just how much safer it can make today’s trucks.
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