Harnessing technology for a safer, “greener” transport industry

3 February 2016

State-of-the-art transport industry technology – like in-cab cameras, lane assist and proximity control – does not come cheap, but the cost of this high-tech equipment is undoubtedly outweighed by its safety benefits, according to Lucky Maluleke, HSS Executive of Imperial Logistics.

When it comes to road safety, supply chain and logistics leader Imperial is putting its money where its mouth is, with the group having instituted a policy to install in-cab camera system “DriveCam” in every truck in its fleet.

It is an initiative that began in 2013, Maluleke reveals, when Tanker Services snapped up the new technology shortly after its launch, and began a project to install and test in-cab cameras in its vehicles.

Imported from the USA, DriveCam is based on a dual-lens in-cab video camera and reporting software. Through its two wide angle lenses, the camera records what is happening on the road ahead of the truck as well as in the cab. Its built-in gravity sensor ensures that footage is stored whenever the vehicle is subjected to forward or sideways movement beyond predefined parameters.

Following on from the success of Tanker Services’ pilot project, Imperial took the decision to install DriveCam in all of its trucks. “The sole purpose of the camera is to mitigate risks for the client, driver, other road users and pedestrians,” Maluleke states. “It is used to determine whether the driver is steering off the road, falling asleep or driving irresponsibly. Basically, this system picks up any sudden movements of the vehicle, the alertness of the driver and whether he is complying with the rules of the road. Furthermore, the driver is very aware that he is being recorded and that it is easy to identify a guilty party. If a driver does slip up, we are immediately alerted to the fact through the real time feed to our 24-hour control room. We are able to assess the situation and the driver, and take the necessary action, including additional driver training, where required.

In the event of an accident, we will have footage prior to the accident and for a specified time afterwards. Imperial and our clients rely on this for investigation purposes.”

Maluleke notes that DriveCam has proved its worth in many instances, and cites several accidents in which the technology revealed that driver error was not the cause of the collision. “After analysing the videos, it was discovered that in 90% of the cases reviewed, it was not the driver’s fault. Confusion and contradictory eye witness reports could be eliminated, and the problem solving was much simpler.

Far from resting on its laurels with the successful group-wide implementation of in-cab cameras, Imperial is continuing to investigate new technology that will further enhance safety. One such option that is currently being considered is MobilEye. This Advanced Driver Assistance System incorporates features that include pedestrian collision warning, lane departure, forward collision warning, headway monitoring, intelligent head beam activation and speed limit indication.

We are not too far from a time when trucks will be able to drive themselves,” comments Maluleke. Nissan, Google and Hyundai have reportedly set 2020 as the year that we can expect the first self-driving vehicles.

Maluleke notes that trucks with automatic transmissions are already capable of some “green” driving techniques that exceed the capabilities of their human drivers. It is for this reason that Imperial – as a group committed to sustainability and environmental considerations – uses only automatic vehicles. Maluleke elaborates: “The latest automatic gear boxes have a computer connected to the engine and gear box. This computer decides on the amount of torque that the driver needs and will select the right gear for a particular route or hill and for the power and speed requirements. It selects the optimal gear for fuel efficiency and environmental considerations. This is known as the ‘green band’. Some OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are doing it better than others, but this so advanced that we cannot expect human drivers to achieve the same environmentally optimal driving.

Every truck in Imperial’s fleet also has electronically controlled braking systems with both ABS (antilock braking system) and EBS (electronic braking stability). “We consider this, together with technology like lane assist and proximity control, to be essential in our business,” he stresses.

Maluleke, too, believes that the costs of transport technology are outweighed by the benefits. “There is always pressure to reduce costs, but we cannot put a price tag on safety. This is an area in which Imperial will not compromise.

While some organisations may expect transport companies to offer the safest, highest specification vehicles for the lowest price, Maluleke’s experience has been of clients largely impressed with the technology and who recognise its benefits. “Ultimately, however, this is not about Rands and cents. It is about constantly striving for the safest and most sustainable business practices, because, as an organisation, we care about people and the environment,” he concludes.

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