What would it take to reduce the number of accidents involving heavy trucks to zero? If anyone knows, it’s Anna Wrige Berling, Traffic and Product Safety Director at Volvo Trucks.
We are aiming for zero accidents, and even if we are proud of our work, we still have a long way to go. Traffic fatalities per capita are decreasing worldwide, but the total number is still going up in many parts of the world. Thousands of people are killed each year in traffic accidents involving heavy trucks, so we are far from satisfied.
It’s true that in most accidents the human factor plays a role – which includes all road users, not only truck drivers. I would say that most truck drivers are very skilled. And it’s important to remember that there is also a positive side to the human factor. Truck drivers – as well as other road users – avoid many more accidents than they cause, thanks to their actions and reactions. Having said that, it´s true that the human factor plays a big role. Therefore, driver training, an increased safety mindset, and risk awareness among all road users are very important in reducing the number of accidents.
Traffic safety is a complex puzzle, and the biggest pieces of that puzzle are safe vehicles, safe roads and safe road users. Volvo Trucks’ main contribution is to develop safe vehicles, but we are also dependent on investment in an improved traffic environment and, not least, efforts to achieve a better safety mindset among all road users.
Vehicle safety will remain our focus and we will constantly develop new systems to address more traffic situations and accident types. We also need to ensure that our safety systems are used in the way they are intended. The seat belt is probably the clearest example that this is not always the case. It is far from used all the time – leading to fatal consequences. Sadly, the same applies to other safety systems – they are not used to their full extent and sometimes used incorrectly. This is a problem that needs to be solved. We will also continue to increase awareness around heavy truck traffic safety and contribute to an improved safety mindset among truck drivers and other road users.
A system with perfect human-reading sensors that would know exactly what’s around the truck and would be able to foresee the intentions of other drivers and road users.
Since almost all accidents are already avoidable with a combination of existing vehicle technology and safe road user behavior today, it shouldn’t be impossible. But at the same time, you could argue that there will always be situations where unfortunate and unpredictable circumstances can lead to accidents. And that’s probably true – at least for the foreseeable future.
Either way, no number other than zero is acceptable. It´s our guiding star in our work and ambition to improve traffic safety around the world. Each and every life saved on the journey towards zero accidents is a win.
Learn more about safety research at Volvo Trucks