Daimler Trucks’ Freightliner division is helping garbage trucks avoid crashes with safety technologies from its Mercedes-Benz passenger car sibling.
Refuse-collection truck manufacturers are working on several approaches to make the vehicles safer. Heavy commercial vehicles are difficult to operate in residential neighborhoods that include vulnerable road users like children, pedestrians and cyclists.
Volvo Trucks, for example, worked with Swedish waste-management company Renova in 2017 to learn how autonomous refuse vehicles could improve safety, make trash collection more efficient and reduce driver injury. The test vehicle traveled very slowly and continuously monitored its surroundings. It stopped if sensors detected any potential obstacles. A driver walked by the truck, monitoring its actions and making sure bins were in place for the vehicle to empty.
Freightliner’s EconicSD doesn’t collect trash autonomously. But it does come with standard automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning. It also has a panoramic windshield and radar sensors that watch the passenger side of the truck for traffic signs, bicyclists and vehicles.
“This industry has been underserved on safety and technology,” said Richard Saward, Freightliner general manager of vocational sales.
The cab-over-engine EconicSD is on display this week at the Waste Expo in Las Vegas, where it was revealed in 2018.
The technologies migrated from Mercedes-Benz to Daimler’s Detroit division. The suite of safety systems is standard in the Freightliner Cascadia heavy-duty truck. The Cascadia also offers optional automated driving features for 2020.
The cost of advanced driver-assistance systems has been falling, said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst with Navigant Research.
Cameras and radars amount to a fraction of the cost of a new garbage truck. They can run $250,000 to $350,000 before taxes, said Dave Johnson, a salesman at Bell Equipment Co. in Gahanna, Ohio.
“Fleet managers are looking at these systems and thinking they can’t afford not to have them,” said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The EconicSD also offers optional multiple video cameras to help the driver be more aware of his or her surroundings.
“Trucks have large blind zones. And they’re operating in crowded urban environments,” Rader said. “If a system prevents one tragedy, it’s worth it.”
Truck crashes are up 41 percent since 2009, said Harry Adler, executive director of the nonprofit Truck Safety Coalition. All but six states reported increases, he said.
“It is very hard to argue against their effectiveness,” Adler said.