Center for Truck and Bus Safety

The Center for Truck and Bus Safety (CTBS) focuses on the research, development, and evaluation of heavy-vehicle systems. CTBS is dedicated to the design, delivery, and implementation of leading-edge research and development efforts aimed at improving the health and safety of heavy-vehicle drivers. The center comprises the Behavioral Analysis and Applications Group, the Human Factors and Advanced System Testing Group, and the Safety and Human Factors Group. Center research includes refining and testing rear-lighting configurations to reduce the number and severity of rear-end crashes, determining safe hours of service for commercial motor vehicle drivers, evaluating causes of drowsiness and providing countermeasures, and developing education programs to keep drivers healthy and alert.

Rich Hanowski
Group Leader

Electronic Logging Devices - FMCSA

The purpose of this study was to assess the benefits of installed electronic hours-of-service recorders (EHSRs) on safety and hours-of-service (HOS) violations related to Class 7 and 8 trucks as they operated during normal revenue service. Data were obtained through a third-party vendor that compiled previously-generated compliance data on participating motor carriers. Although the final data sets included data from 11 carriers representing small, medium, and large carriers (including a total of 82,943 crashes, 970 HOS violations, and 224,034 truck-years in a total of 15.6 billion driven miles), the data set in that study was skewed toward larger, for-hire carriers and may not represent the overall U.S. trucking population. After controlling for calendar year, carriers in the data set, onboard safety system (OBSS) status, and long-haul/regional indicator, EHSR-equipped trucks were found to have a significantly lower total crash rate (11.7% reduction) and a significantly lower preventable crash rate (5.1% reduction) than trucks not equipped with an EHSR. Small sample sizes limited the power to detect significant differences in U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT)-recordable and fatigue-related crashes between the EHSR and non-EHSR groups. This result is primarily attributed to the lack of sufficient data (in terms of the numbers of these types of crashes) to be able to detect safety benefits with statistical significance at the observed level. After controlling for year, carrier index, OBSS status, and long-haul/regional indicator, EHSR-equipped trucks had a 53% lower driving-related HOS violation rate and a 49% lower non-driving-related HOS violation rate than trucks not equipped with EHSRs. The results show a clear safety benefit in terms of crash and HOS violation reductions for trucks equipped with EHSRs. Read More

Fatigue Management Program - NAFMP

The fatigue management program was sponsored by the North American Fatigue Management Program (NAFMP) and was completed in 2012. This program sought to address a number of issues through the comprehensive analysis of various factors that affect fatigue in truck drivers. Using this analysis and support from other team member resources, a series of training modules were developed to address the various aspects of transportation that lead to or exacerbate fatigue. The training modules include topics for carrier executives, drivers, family and spouses of drivers, shippers and receivers, dispatchers, managers, and trainers. These tools along with additional information are all available on the NAFMP website.

FAST DASH Program Overview

The primary mission of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses (FMCSA, 2015). According to the FMCSA, the development, evaluation, and deployment of advanced safety technology will be a key to realizing this objective. Read More

FAST DASH Program Overview

The primary mission of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses (FMCSA, 2015). According to the FMCSA, the development, evaluation, and deployment of advanced safety technology will be a key to realizing this objective.

The FMCSA provides leadership for evaluating promising safety technologies developed for commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) by identifying their in-service benefits in a naturalistic driving environment. By identifying, quantifying, and documenting the safety benefits of promising technologies, FMCSA encourages the voluntary adoption of proven technologies by motor carriers. Towards this goal, the FMCSA’s Advanced System Testing utilizing a Data Acquisition System on the Highways (FAST DASH) program conducts efficient, independent evaluations of promising safety technologies aimed at commercial vehicle operations (CVO).

The goal of the FAST DASH program is to determine the efficacy of the safety systems using the following high-level metrics:

  • Crash reduction effectiveness (i.e., safety improvements)
  • Unintended consequences (i.e., safety disbenefits)
  • User (e.g., driver, safety manager) acceptance (i.e., subjective opinions)

The Center for Truck and Bus Safety (CTBS) at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) has been tasked to complete at least three technology evaluations over five years. VTTI applies the following process to evaluate the technologies:

  • Controlled Performance Testing – CTBS performs preliminary “shake-down testing” of the technology on the Virginia Smart Road to demonstrate and assess the performance capabilities reported by the vendor.
  • Field Study – CTBS instruments CMVs with data acquisition systems (DAS) to gather naturalistic data from a revenue-producing fleet operating on public roads with the technology installed. The DAS carry a suite of sensors including forward radar, lateral and longitudinal accelerometers, gyro, GPS, access to the vehicle controller area network (CAN), and multiple channels of compressed digital video. The collection of vehicle miles in using a before-after methodology provides insight into the system’s potential safety benefits, system performance under real-world conditions, unintended consequences from the use of the system, and drivers’ impressions of the technology.

FAST DASH (phase 1),
The first technology evaluation for the FMCSA’s Advanced System Testing Utilizing a Data Acquisition System on the Highway (FAST DASH) examined the performance of a Blind Spot Warning (BSW) system under normal driving conditions for Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs). The BSW uses an array of infrared laser beams to create three-dimensional (3D) detection zones on either side of a CMV. The system alerts the driver of objects in the blind spots via activation of amber light-emitting diodes (LEDs) mounted on the side-view mirrors. Twenty-one participants were recruited from a trucking fleet in the southeast region of the United States to drive their normal revenue-producing routes with 20 instrumented tractors for the six month evaluation. The first two months involved a baseline period in which the drivers received no feedback from the BSW system. The BSW system was activated for the remaining driving period. The 20 tractors were instrumented with the BSW system as well as a suite of sensors including forward radar, lateral and longitudinal accelerometers, gyro, GPS, access to the vehicle CAN, and multiple channels of compressed digital video. Collection rates for the various sensors ranged from 1Hz to 10Hz. This collection effort resulted in approximately 722,639 mi (1,162,975 km) of valid vehicle miles.

Results from the controlled tests and the field study indicate that the subject BSW system provides good coverage and helps to identify objects in the blind spot zones of CMVs. These blind spot zones pose a particular challenge to CMV drivers, especially on the passenger-side of the vehicle. System testing in controlled experiments on a test track showed that the system performed well at correctly detecting vehicles inside the detection zones and correctly ignoring vehicles outside the detection zones.

Read More

Performance Requirements for Commercial Vehicle Safety Applications - NHTSA

Sponsored by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), this project sought to identify performance requirements for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) applications that are appropriate for commercial vehicles. Using focus groups, literature reviews, and meetings with the commercial vehicle industry, this project assessed applications, both in use and under development, that could benefit commercial vehicles and their drivers. The results guided the development of minimum performance standards for identified applications.

Crash Trifecta - NSTSCE

When determining crash causation, crash databases emphasize a single critical reason (CR) as the primary proximal cause of a safety-critical event (SCE), which leaves no room for the identification of any other potential contributing factors to the crash/event. However, research in the field of transportation safety has established that crashes are typically caused by a convergence of several factors. The aim of this study was to investigate the crash trifecta concept to determine if the convergence of multiple elements, rather than a single critical reason, has greater value in explaining the complexities of crash genesis.Read More

Crash Trifecta - NSTSCE

When determining crash causation, crash databases emphasize a single critical reason (CR) as the primary proximal cause of a safety-critical event (SCE), which leaves no room for the identification of any other potential contributing factors to the crash/event. However, research in the field of transportation safety has established that crashes are typically caused by a convergence of several factors. The aim of this study was to investigate the crash trifecta concept to determine if the convergence of multiple elements, rather than a single critical reason, has greater value in explaining the complexities of crash genesis. Specifically, the crash trifecta concept is defined as three separate but converging elements:

  1. Unsafe pre-incident behavior or maneuver (e.g., speeding, tailgating, unsafe turn);
  2. Transient driver inattention (which may be driving related, such as mirror use, or unrelated, such as reaching for an object); and
  3. An unexpected traffic event (e.g., unexpected stopping by the vehicle ahead).

The value of the crash trifecta concept and convergence concepts in crash causation is that these concepts provide a structure for understanding the complexities of crash genesis. Thus, the crash trifecta concept may help explain the differences between the events that lead to a crash and those that cause lower-severity SCEs (e.g., near-crashes).

Behavioral Analysis and Applications Group

Jeff Hickman
Group Leader

Led by Jeff Hickman, Ph.D., the Behavioral Analysis and Applications Group specializes in real-world, high-quality research focused on a variety of behavioral safety and health issues involving heavy-truck and bus operations.

The group's focus is on research and development efforts that advance knowledge in the truck and bus safety and health domains and provide solutions to real-world problems using the technologies of applied behavior analysis and human factors engineering in conjunction with theories from experimental, social, applied, clinical and industrial/organizational psychology.

The group also conducts research on industrial and occupational safety, intelligent transportation systems, the support and development of federal and state regulations, safety culture, and training and education programs.

Matthew Camden

Research Associate

Naomi Dunn

Research Associate

Laurel Glenn

Research Associate

Erin Mabry

Senior Research Associate

Human Factors and Advanced System Testing Group

Led by Johan Engstrom, Ph.D., the Human Factors and Advanced System Testing Group (H-FAST) specializes in helping both industry and government sponsors solve transportation challenges by providing high-quality applied research focused on understanding and optimizing interactions between humans (e.g., drivers, passengers, and pedestrians) and the transportation system.

This group has experience in providing practical solutions (e.g., advanced technology, public and private policy, and guidelines) for a variety of transportation safety issues (e.g., visibility, fatigue, distraction, and comfort) involving light vehicles, heavy trucks, specialty vehicles (e.g., hazardous materials and fire apparatus) and buses.

Johan Engstrom
Group Leader

Mark Golusky

Lead Research Specialist

Kevin Grove

Research Associate

Andrew Krum

Senior Research Associate

Andrew Miller

Research Associate

Safety and Human Factors Group

Rich Hanowski
Group Leader

Led in the interim by Rich Hanowski, Ph.D., the mission of the Safety and Human Factors Group is to improve transportation safety and efficiency by advancing the knowledge about driver performance and inherent risks along with applying expertise about driver capabilities and limitations to the design of in-vehicle displays and driver assistance systems.

The group specializes in large-scale, real-world driving studies, product testing and evaluation, user-centered product design and development, and the design and implementation of innovative research tools. Its research contributes to a practical, in-depth knowledge base that informs government, commercial vehicle operations, equipment manufacturers, academia and the public.

Rebecca Hammond

Research Associate

Spencer Joslin

Project Associate

Driving Healthy

As a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver, eating right is challenging because access to healthy food is often limited. It can also be a challenge to find the time or resources to exercise while on the road. The goal of Driving Healthy is to provide CMV drivers with health and wellness information targeted towards the unique needs of CMV drivers. We encourage visitors to explore the information within the Driving Healthy website, to interact with others on our Facebook and Twitter pages, and to share CMV-specific health-related information with others.

Commercial Motor Vehicle Driving Safety

When it comes to commercial trucking, education can play a significant role in the safety and well-being of commercial drivers and the public with whom they share the roads. Researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) have come together to provide industry professionals – risk managers, safety directors, dispatchers, and their insurance agents – with the information they need to develop strategies for a safer, more productive workforce. On this website, you will find six interactive modules prepared by VTTI research scientists who specialize in the trucking industry. Each module includes a discussion of safety issues, the latest science on the topic, and tools to help develop practical solutions. We hope that visitors are able to apply the information provided on emerging areas of safety and loss prevention in their business operations.

Tips for Sharing the Road with Commercial Motor Vehicles

The fault in over three-quarters of crashes and near-crashes involving heavy vehicles is primarily attributed to car drivers. This may be indicative of inadequacies in driver education and training programs related to safely sharing the road with heavy vehicles. The Tips for Sharing the Road with Commercial Motor Vehicles website was designed to cover five key sharing-the-road scenarios using video clips of real-world driving events captured during one of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s naturalistic driving studies. The website includes video clips of driving, simulator screenshots, scenario descriptions, short tips and facts, and photographs of actual crashes between cars and heavy vehicles to convey the importance of proper road-sharing behavior. Although the website is aimed at new drivers, all drivers can benefit from reviewing the material and scenarios to ensure that they are sharing the road properly in their everyday driving.

Commercial Motor Vehicle Driving Tips

Housed on the website of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Driving Tips website was developed to educate CMV drivers and fleet managers about common driving errors and provide valuable driving tips through an easily accessible tool, the Internet. The driving tips, ideas, and suggestions outlined on the website are supported with real-world driving video clips that exemplify the errors. The truck videos shown on the website were collected during real-world (open roadway) driving studies conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. As a training exercise, the examples on the website are followed by sets of questions aimed to spark thoughtful introspection of the behaviors shown in the videos.