- The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) recently released two reports, Optimizing Large Vehicles for Urban Environments, with one report focused on downsizing and the other on advanced driver assistance systems. Large vehicles include, but are not limited to, freight trucks, waste management vehicle and fire trucks.
- The reports detail opportunities for the public sector, considering that public agencies buy a notable number of large vehicles. Some recommendations are to use smaller yet equally capable emergency response vehicles, retrofit existing fleet vehicles for better visibility and use advanced driver assistance systems that include cameras, radar and sensors.
- The documents center around the importance that large vehicle design prioritizes on-street safety because large vehicles are disproportionately responsible for road fatalities. Although large trucks only make up 4% of the U.S. vehicle fleet, they are involved in 7% of pedestrian fatalities, 11% of bicyclist fatalities and 12% of car and light-truck occupant fatalities, the reports state.
There's been a lot of press recently about the effect that large vehicles have on cities in terms of congestion and curb space. The e-commerce boom has brought a focus on the volume of trucks on the road and how simply freeing up curb space for deliveries has the potential to significantly reduce traffic congestion.
But this duo of reports delves deeper than just the frustration of congestion. They attempt to provide solutions on the serious topic of road safety and traffic fatalities. The reports offer ways to still perform large vehicle-centric jobs well while reducing risks to more vulnerable road users.
Urban areas are chock full of challenges for large truck drivers due to the increased population densities and often reduced spaces in which to maneuver. But the reports' suggestions of using smaller vehicles and driver assistance technologies can lessen the severity of urban challenges.
The reports indicate that vehicle redesign supports many cities' Vision Zero efforts, with the ultimate goal of reducing traffic deaths to zero. For example, part of San Francisco's Vision Zero plan involved procuring narrower fire trucks with shorter wheelbases and a better turning radius for use in Chinatown and other dense parts of the city.