Freightliner LLC Completes Field Operational Test with U.S. Department of Transportation

Largest field test ever conducted by DOT aims to improve vehicle safety, reliability



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PORTLAND, ORE. – Freightliner LLC today announced that it has completed a significant three-year study with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) – a field-operational test of Electronically-Controlled Braking Systems (ECBS) and other safety technologies.



Conducted as part of the DOT’s initiative to accelerate deployment of new safety technologies that reduce accidents and fatalities, the study’s results will be used to improve truck safety systems’ performance, reliability, durability and maintainability.



“With the massive amount of data we collected and provided to the DOT, they’ll be equipped to draw conclusions about stability and braking systems that may reduce rear end, lane change and merge collisions, lane departure, rollover, and understeer and oversteer instability – ultimately saving lives,” said Scott Smith, executive engineer for Freightliner LLC. “Freightliner LLC is known for its unmatched commitment to safety and its dedication to the research and development of new safety technologies and is proud to have partnered with the DOT in an effort to make the roads safer for all.”



Evaluating Technologies

The field test was conducted to gather safety benefits data with the objective to demonstrate a potential reduction in crashes, fatalities and injuries offered by safety systems. To do this, the study tested the compatibility of combinations of tractors and trailers equipped with ABS, ECBS, disc and drum brakes, and enabled safety technologies. These technologies included adaptive cruise control (ACC), Yaw Stability Control, Roll Stability Control, and air disc brakes.



In 2003, the DOT awarded the cooperative research project to Freightliner LLC and its team, which included Wal-Mart, Battelle, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC, Meritor WABCO and the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center.



Freightliner LLC collaborated with Wal-Mart to dedicate a test fleet of 48 new Freightliner® Columbia® tractors with 58-inch SleeperCabs to the project. The trucks were equipped with on-board computers, ECBS and ABS. Similarly, Wal-Mart agreed to outfit 100 new Great Dane trailers with the technology required of the field test. The fleet was then operated out of Wal-Mart’s distribution center in Loveland, Colo., to collect vehicle onboard system data, maintenance data and driver experience data.



The Freightliner tractors were separated into two groups. The first group consisted of 40 tractors and 60 trailers that were used to determine the compatibility and performance of unmatched combinations of tractors and trailers equipped with ECBS or ABS.



The second group of eight tractors was used to measure ECBS and ECBS-enabled safety technologies on matched tractor-trailers with brake control systems from the same manufacturer.



Making one or more 300-mile round-trips a day, each Freightliner truck distributed perishable and dry goods between Wal-Mart hubs, distribution centers and outlying stores. The location of the Loveland facility was specifically selected to test the trucks as they ran through a range of weather conditions as well as a variety of routes including highways, urban areas, and mountainous terrain.



Data was recorded over an initial six-month period from May to October 2005 with enabled technologies in the vehicles turned off. During the second six-month period from November 2005 to April 2006, the technologies were fully functional and interactive.



“Conducting this comparative test over a 12 month period allowed us to look closely at the vehicles’ complex configurations,” said Smith. “We were able to gather substantial data by operating the vehicles in a real-world operating environment – as opposed to a simulated test – and supply the DOT with critical safety data for evaluation.”



Lessons Learned

Although still awaiting the official test analysis from the DOT, the study has given Freightliner LLC a leg up on the competition when it comes to ensuring customer safety now and into the future.



“Running these tests helped us decide which technologies are the most effective and work best in our vehicles,” said Smith. “We want to continue to be at the forefront of new developments and always offer our customers the most advanced safety features on the market.”



Smith added, “This study will affect more than just trucks. It has the potential to impact road infrastructure, cars and other drivers – it’s a positive step for the entire transportation community.”



Freightliner LLC, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, is the leading medium- and heavy-duty truck manufacturer in North America. Freightliner produces and markets Class 4-8 vehicles and is a company of DaimlerChrysler, the world's largest commercial vehicle manufacturer.



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