A yearslong partnership between TSR and the city of New York aimed at advancing fleet safety has led to tangible results.  -  Photo: Canva

A yearslong partnership between TSR and the city of New York aimed at advancing fleet safety has led to tangible results.

Photo: Canva

Creating a culture of fleet safety should be at the forefront of every fleet’s operations. Sometimes, creating that culture requires inviting external players to the table.

For New York City, a years-long partnership with Together for Safer Roads (TSR), is leading to safer vehicles and, ultimately, safer roadways for both fleet drivers and vulnerable road users.

TSR Executive Director Peter Goldwasser and New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) Deputy Chief Fleet Management Officer Eric Richardson teamed up at the 2023 Fleet Safety Conference in their session, “Fostering Fleet Safety Through Public-Private Partnerships” to share about how their partnership is leading to tangible results within the nation’s largest municipal fleet.

Together for Safer Roads at a Glance

TSR, a global NGO, is a coalition formed in 2014 alongside the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety that brings together global private sector companies to focus on reducing deaths and injuries by roadway collisions. TSR’s members include both leading fleets and technology companies including Anheuser-Busch InBev, VisionTrack, UPS, Samsara, Republic Services, and more.

(From left) TSR Executive Director Peter Goldwasser and NYC DCAS Deputy Chief Fleet Management Officer Eric Richardson shared about the benefits they have reaped from their partnership.  -  Photo: Lauren Brooks, Monclay Media

(From left) TSR Executive Director Peter Goldwasser and NYC DCAS Deputy Chief Fleet Management Officer Eric Richardson shared about the benefits they have reaped from their partnership.

Photo: Lauren Brooks, Monclay Media

So where do public sector fleets like New York City's Department of Citywide Administrative Services come in? TSR has worked hand-in-hand with NYC DCAS to help as the fleet tests out various technologies and safety strategies.

Ultimately, TSR’s goal is to achieve Vision Zero — the elimination of all traffic fatalities and severe injuries.

To do this, TSR’s Global Leadership Council for Fleet Safety — which DCAS and Richardson are members of — created FOCUS on Fleet Safety, a workforce development program for small to mid-sized fleets, utilizing industry best practices to help companies achieve safe and efficient operations through a combination of Safety Training, Leadership Development, and Technology. 

The curriculum also features subject matter experts pulled from TSR’s public and private sector members, creating strong peer-to-peer learning opportunities and networking. 

“About 88% of fleets in the U.S. are actually small or mid-size…and they don't necessarily have the resources, the ability, and the capacity — both financially and/or from a staffing perspective — to create comprehensive cultures of safety,” Goldwasser said.

This is what makes TSR’s work, and its work with cities like New York, so important. 

Testing Safety Technology on Public and Private Fleet Vehicles

In 2016, New York City received $20 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to test connected vehicle technology that provides driver alerts and other safety measures on up to 5,000 vehicles that operate in the city — both public and private. 

When the NYC Department of Transportation was looking for partners to commit to the pilot, Richardson reached out to TSR about teaming up with Anheuser-Busch. Because of its own partnership with the brewing company, TSR was able to connect the city with the company.

Beyond the FOCUS on Fleet Safety curriculum and Connected Vehicle technology pilot, TSR has also worked with multiple cities in other innovative ways to develop safer fleets — starting with the vehicles their fleet operators are driving.

Empowering Fleets with a Direct Vision Star Rating System 

Oftentimes, the build on a truck makes it difficult for fleet operators to see directly in front of it or to the sides, resulting in large and dangerous blind zones.

Richardson shared that in simulated studies from the U.S. DOT Volpe Center, pedestrians in crosswalks were fatally struck 87% of the time in a conventionally designed truck, but 0% in a high-vision truck.

This is why TSR set out to create the first North American Direct Vision Star Rating System in partnership with public and private sector fleets, government officials, and industry experts. 

Fleet's can determine the direct vision rating on their fleet vehicles using a toolkit created by TSR.  -  Photo: Together for Safer Roads

Fleet's can determine the direct vision rating on their fleet vehicles using a toolkit created by TSR.

Photo: Together for Safer Roads

The direct vision star standards are based on the distance from which a typical preschool child with a shoulder height of 36” can be seen by a driver.

It's vital for fleet owners to understand how the range of visibility in their trucks stacks up against other fleets; it empowers them to make better purchasing decisions and modify their existing fleets to increase visibility. 

The Direct Vision Star Rating System provides policymakers and fleet operators with a tool to assess the blind zones of their current fleet vehicles and make better-informed purchases when procuring new trucks. 

TSR believes this will also encourage fleet owners to retrofit poorly rated vehicles to improve visibility and reduce the size of their blind zones. 

In London, heavy goods trucks have been required to meet a direct vision standard since 2019 and report a 75% reduction in fatal crashes where vision was a factor. Similarly, vision-related crashes causing severe injuries fell 64% from 2017 to 2021.

“The goal is to empower fleets to be able to go to the OEMS and manufacturers and say ‘Listen, we want these [high-vision trucks] and we know there's a market for it,’” Goldwasser said. “These trucks exist, but they are more prevalent in some European countries. We want them here.”

The toolkit acts as a measurable system to give to fleets so they know what “high-vision” looks like. The database of vehicles has been built over time as fleets have measured more and more vehicles, making it easy for fleet managers to go into the system and see what rating a specific vehicle has.

This kind of system helps DCAS make vehicle procurement decisions as part of the Safe Fleet Transition Plan. With a fleet of 28,000 vehicles, the City of New York typically purchases thousands of vehicles annually including collection trucks, box trucks, rack trucks, and buses. 

New York City has been transitioning many of its trucks to high-vision trucks for  several years  as part of its Vision Zero initiative.  -  Photo: NYC DCAS

New York City has been transitioning many of its trucks to high-vision trucks for several years as part of its Vision Zero initiative.

Photo: NYC DCAS

When purchasing new trucks, the city’s procurement and specification writers can look at this database to make more informed procurement decisions.

Seeing Clearly with the Truck of the Future 

Another TSR initiative that focuses on helping to address the issue of blind zones in commercial trucks and the lack of clear, direct vision, is their Truck of the Future pilot program. 

This program – currently being tested with vehicles in NYC’s fleet, as well as at Anheuser-Busch Inbev’s Mexico City operations, retrofits trucks with technology like cameras and sensors, turn alerts, and other advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) that are connected to telematics devices to essentially turn them into high-vision trucks. 

The technology is meant to help predict near misses, a leading indicator of crashes, injuries, and fatalities. In essence, the technology helps fleets be proactive instead of reactive. The technology partner for this initiative is TSR member VisionTrack.

“One of the things that I've been really excited about is not only being able to see the things that have gone wrong, but being able to point to the things that have gone right when drivers actually do what you hope that they will do: when they slow down when they make the turn, or when they brake when they hear the warning of a bicycle coming up on their left side,” Richardson explained. “I’ve been excited about being able to start seeing that data and also being able to take those systems and give feedback.”

The technology is also scalable. Where a 10-ft. radius warning system for a bicyclist or pedestrian might work well for New York City, a small city or town may not need 10 ft. for that kind of warning.

“The technologies don't all work the same in different cities. So you also have to remember when you put on a technology, that's something you’ve got to understand works in your area,” Richardson added.

Similarly, technology placement may be different for fleets depending on their vocation.

“The camera location for where you need to put the camera on the [Anheuser-Busch] delivery truck is different than where you need to put it on some of Eric's trucks, just because of the way [the truck is] used. And you would never really know that until you get out there,” Goldwasser said, underscoring the importance of testing safety technology on different kinds of fleets. 

Bringing Fleet Operators Onboard

For fleet operators in New York City, Richardson said learning new technologies and adjusting to high-vision trucks has been widely accepted. 

“When you talk to drivers about it and you explain what we're trying to do, they're actually a lot happier, because they're like, ‘That's one less thing that we have to be so stressed out about,’” Richardson said. “What if there is somebody in front of my vehicle and I can't see them? Now we've given them that ability to see that small child who might have run out in front of them on the street…Sure, it’s a little bit of retraining, but most of it is just that they’re so much happier to be in that type of vehicle.”

For Richardson, success in these kinds of initiatives can be measured by fleet operator satisfaction. New York City is in the process of surveying drivers who have the Truck of the Future technology in their trucks.

Seeing Tangible Results with Fleet Safety Initiatives

In addition to positive fleet operator feedback, New York City has also been able to take data from its telematics devices to influence change.

“Being able to have the system in place gives us that view of, ‘Okay, this is why that happened.’ And then, how do we then go ahead and train and mitigate that from happening again?” Richardson shared. 

The Truck of the Future Program has also helped Richardson have a better understanding of the roadways in the city.

“We have a lot of things going on on our roads in the city of New York: a lot of micromobility, and a lot of restaurants that have now extended out into the streets. So having the system and being able to look at the roads from a holistic approach has been extremely helpful,” Richardson added.

Another way this public-private partnership has led to change is through new connections. New York City has been running a pilot program using intelligent speed assist (ISA) technology since 2022.

New York City's ISA pilot uses technology that sets vehicles' max speeds based on the changing speed limits throughout the city.  -  Photo: NYC DCAS

New York City's ISA pilot uses technology that sets vehicles' max speeds based on the changing speed limits throughout the city.

Photo: NYC DCAS

The fleet team was able to connect a company that provides 360-degree vehicle camera systems to the company providing ISA technology. Pairing those two technologies will not only prevent fleet operators from speeding and alert them if someone is in front of their vehicle, it will now also stop the vehicle altogether.

Goldwasser hopes these existing safety initiatives in places like New York City will encourage other cities to adopt similar initiatives.

“We want more cities to be able to begin to think about this type of technology, to be able to answer the questions of ‘Yes, you can do this, these are some industries, these are some companies in the private sector that want to do this, these are your fellow colleagues in different cities who have done it,’” Goldwasser said. “Having this specific pilot is very scalable. And it helps in the conversations to explain it, because sometimes the ideas and potential can be hard to understand.”

About the author
Christy Grimes

Christy Grimes

Senior Editor

Christy Grimes is a Senior Editor at Bobit, working on Automotive Fleet and Government Fleet publications. She has also written for School Bus Fleet.

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