Because the tractor-trailers that can weigh up to 20 times more than cars are difficult to stop and maneuver, they’re the most dangerous vehicles rolling through the Worcester area on interstates and other highways. Large commercial truck accidents have soared by nearly a third over the past decade. Two years ago, more than 4,100 were killed in crashes involving big rigs – including 119 people who died when trucks rear-ended passenger vehicles.

Good news about big rig safety

A recent study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has good news: when large trucks are equipped with forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems, they are more than 40 percent less likely to crash into the backs of other vehicles.

The IIHS says that though the advanced safety technologies can’t prevent all rear-end collisions, the tech will nevertheless mitigate the severity of the remaining crashes. That means that equipping big rigs with forward-collision warning and autobraking systems – existing technology available today on new passenger vehicles – would immediately make our streets and highways safer.

“This study provides evidence that forward collision warning and AEB (automatic emergency braking) greatly reduce crash risk for tractor-trailers and other large trucks,” said the IIHS director of statistical services.

Crash data analysis

IIHS researchers analyzed data from approximately 2,000 accidents involving commercial trucks weighing at least 33,000 pounds that took place from 2017 through 2019. They compared trucks without any forward-crash prevention tech to those outfitted with auto braking and those equipped with forward-collision warning systems.

According to the study: “Forward collision warning and AEB reduced rear-end crashes — the specific type of collision they’re designed to prevent — by 44 and 41 percent, respectively.”

It should be noted that previous IIHS research showed that auto emergency braking systems reduced rear-end collisions by half and rear-end collisions involving injuries by 56 percent.

A call to action

The IIHS issued a call for the federal government to mandate the inclusion of the two safety systems on all large commercial trucks. The technologies use cameras, radar and other sensors to monitor the traffic and road ahead, to issue driver alerts or to apply the brakes to prevent or reduce the impact of rear-end collisions.

Though there’s no hint that the federal government is about to require truck-makers to include the tech, an article about the study stated that 20 automakers have committed to making autobraking standard on all passenger vehicles two years from now.

Some truck fleet operators are also taking the initiative, voluntarily including the technologies on their big rigs. They clearly understand that it’s in their best interests to reduce both the frequency and severity of truck accidents.