A fleet of tanker trucks has seen a 33.7 percent drop in rear-end collisions over a 31-month period. According to the company, the only thing it took to prevent accidents was $150 worth of blinking amber lights on the back of their trucks. The company, Enid Oklahoma’s Groendyke Transport, even said that rear-end collisions at railroad crossings were completely prevented after installing the lights.
"The idea came from a general meeting about our safety efforts,” said Brian Gigoux, vice president of the company to FleetOwner. "We had made an investment to acquire all of our new tractors with collision mitigation systems and forward-facing radars. We were very impressed with the results and decided to tackle the next problem: people running into the back of us."
What the Tuck Operator Did
The company tested strobe lights from various makers and in various intensity and colors before settling on the lights they now use. According to drivers, installing the lights caused a change in traffic behind them. They stated that they noticed cars changing lanes sooner and, as a result, keeping more of a distance from their trucks.
"We were very cautious that the light could be so overwhelming, that it could actually cause a problem, especially in inclement weather like snow. We tested in three locations—Kansas City, Denver and Fort Worth—and got some driver feedback. It evolved from there," Gigoux clarified.
The company's lights are unique because it wanted to avoid matching the lights that vocational trucks and buses already use. Instead, it wanted the lights to be noticeable while not being too bright for drivers near trucks.
"We played around with the placement of it and the intensity of the lighting. Then we tried some different programmable strobes that have a real fast intensity, but the one we're using now blinks about 73 times per minute,” Gigoux said. “It's a little bit more than once a per second. We feel like it's just very effective."
According to Ryan Pietzsch, a driver safety education for the National Safety Council, the lights are a smart color.
"We associate amber or yellow with hazard or warning,” he said. “As far as the amber goes, you've seen construction vehicles with amber flashing lights and vehicles that operate around a roadway will have them. Most state laws allow for the use of hazard lights below the posted minimum speed limit, for example. If you're operating and you're truly a hazard, like an oversized load, they use flashing amber lights, and, oftentimes, they have escort vehicles with flashing amber lights. The intent is to get drivers' attention. It’s like saying, 'We know we're a hazard. We're operating under DOT guidelines, and we are a hazard. Pay special attention.'”
Other Companies Might Follow Suit
Notably, Groendyke received some citations for its new lights. The company took accepted the violations and continued with its experiments regardless.
"We knew that we were a little bit rogue, but we were determined to improve safety,” Gigoux said. “We were determined to try to mitigate people from running into the back of us. Even if we didn't eliminate people running into the back of us, we wanted to at least get them slowed down enough so there wouldn't be serious personal injury. It's two twofold. I think if there is one question out there for me it is how do we measure the near misses because you'll never know about those since they are never reported."
Now, the company’s results have spurred the interest of the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC). It petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to allow pulsating brake lights. It hopes that Groendyke’s success will encourage the FMCSA to accept the lights as an accepted safety feature for trucks.
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