Blind spots are called that for a reason – everyone on the road knows that. (Or they should!) And where big rigs are concerned, they’re worthy of real attention: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) calls them “No Zones” and lists avoiding them as the top tip for passenger vehicles driving around large trucks and buses. As part of the “Truck Talk with Bendix” podcast’s Driver Insight Series, we addressed them with a driver-centric discussion on side object detection technology – specifically, the Bendix™ BlindSpotter® Side Object Detection System.

What, Where, and How

Bendix’s BlindSpotter alerts a driver to objects that may be in their blind spots, most commonly on the passenger’s side – although the system can be installed on the driver’s side as well. The system uses a radar mounted on the side of the cab – typically a foot or two away from the steps on a sleeper cab, and a little closer on a day cab – which sends a signal across the adjacent lane, as well as forward and back along the vehicle. The radar’s coverage area and some capabilities depend in part on whether it’s connected to a truck’s J-1939 Controller Area Network (CAN), which makes the system more powerful and effective.

Inside the cab, BlindSpotter’s driver alerts are both visual – in the form of indicator LEDs on the A-pillar(s) – and audible. An illuminated amber LED means the system doesn’t detect an object or vehicle in the adjacent lane. If an object is detected, the amber LED goes out, and the red LED is illuminated. If the driver engages the turn signal while BlindSpotter’s red LED is on, the system will provide an audible alert. This notifies the driver that there is something in the blind spot, and he or she should not change lanes.

It’s a straightforward system: If you see a red indicator, but nothing in your side mirrors, it’s likely that something is in your blind spot (you can learn even more about BlindSpotter at safertrucks.com/blindspotter).

Four Things Drivers Need to Know

We can’t stress this enough: BlindSpotter does not replace the use of side mirrors. It’s a driver assistance technology, not a driver replacement technology – use it with your mirrors, not instead of them! Secondly, BlindSpotter alerts visually only when it detects a metallic object in the lane next to you. It’s important to remember that the audible alert only occurs when the red LED is on and the driver activates the turn signal. Simply making the lane change without signaling while the BlindSpotter LED is red will not trigger the audible warning.

It’s also key to note that BlindSpotter doesn’t provide any active brake or steering interventions of any kind: It’s not going to nudge the steering wheel, activate the brakes, or dethrottle the engine. If there’s a pull during lane changes, it’s not BlindSpotter!

As a company committed to safety and safer highways, and following our discussion about driver assistance versus driver replacement technologies, one point bears repeating right about now: Safety technologies complement safe driving practices. No commercial vehicle safety technology – including the Bendix BlindSpotter Side Object Detection System – replaces a skilled, alert driver exercising safe driving techniques and proactive, comprehensive driver training. Responsibility for the safe operation of the vehicle remains with the driver at all times.

Benefits of Side Object Detection and Alert

The most recent FMCSA Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts (2017) report indicated that of the more than 470,000 heavy trucks involved in a crash in 2017, more than a quarter of them were involved in side-swipe crashes. On average, that equates to a side-swipe truck crash every four minutes or so across North America. Fortunately, most of these involved damage to property only – but those are still serious situations with negative consequences, and if BlindSpotter can help prevent even one, the system will more than likely pay for itself.

Most North American large truck and bus manufacturers make BlindSpotter available for factory install through their OEM databooks, and you can also get in touch with Bendix’s retrofit team about getting BlindSpotter installed on your current trucks.

North America depends on the men and women who get behind the wheel and keep things moving in the trucking industry: Bendix wants to support them with technologies that make for safer vehicles and safer travels.

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