Road Management & Engineering Journal
Road Management & Engineering Journal
April, 2001
TranSafety, Inc.
(360) 683-6276
Fax: (360) 335-6402

Lookout!! New Technology Prevents Blind-Spot Accidents

(The following article and photograph are reproduced, with permission, from the January/March 2001 issue (Vol. 15, No. 2) of The Bridge, a publication of the Transportation Center at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan. Our thanks to Michigan's Local Technical Assistance Program for providing electronic copies of the article and photograph.)

The LookoutTM is a state-of-the-art safety aid for solid body trucks and vans that acts like a sixth sense in aiding drivers to locate people and objects in their "blind" spots. There's no doubt of the need for this technology. In 1998 alone, there were 19,000 accidents and 6,000 deaths involving what the U.S. Department of Transportation refers to as the "No Zone" of commercial vehicle--those areas around commercial trucks where smaller vehicles disappear from view in the driver's mirrors or windows. In addition to the toll in injuries and deaths, blind-spot accidents are responsible for staggering losses to the industry in property damage, higher insurance premiums, downtime, and related costs.

The LookoutTM consists of ultrasonic sensors that can be placed anywhere on a truck, trailer, or van, along with an LED display unit mounted within the cab.

Adaptable, Easy, Durable, Effective

This system is adaptable, and is intended for use on any size truck or van, from delivery vans to tractor-trailers. The control unit can handle up to 10 sensors with quick-connect coupling that allows them to remain with the trailer and the control unit with the tractor, a boon to fleet operations. LookoutTM not only aids the driver in backing and changing lanes, but, when activated, also has an internal security alarm feature that alerts the driver when something or someone approaches the truck when it is standing still.

System packages include everything needed to install the units, from wiring harnesses and junction boxes to cable ties. Most components simply plug together. Safety Enterprises maintains a toll-free hotline to assist with parts or installation needs, and factory-certified installers or trainers can be used to meet any company's needs.

Very little training of drivers is required. The display unit has only two buttons (Power and Alarm), along with an LED readout of distances from 1.0 to 9.9 feet, and a graphic outline of the truck. The display brightness automatically adjusts for ambient light and is viewable in direct sunlight.

The LookoutTM LED Display Unit and Sensors

In normal blind-spot mode, when an object is within 8 feet of one of the sensors, the corresponding area is lit up on the display unit's truck outline. When the vehicle is shifted into reverse, the system automatically switches to backup mode and the display shows the distance between the rear of the vehicle and any object (a loading dock, for instance), flashing "0.0" when the distance is less than 1 foot. An audio alarm beeps more rapidly as the distance closes. The alarm mode can be used when the truck is parked, with the audio alarm sounding when anything comes within 3 feet of a sensor.

Each "smart" sensor is housed within a sealed, weather-tight enclosure, and all other components are built to withstand the rigors of commercial vehicle use. The system is manufactured by MPH Industries, Inc., a maker of police traffic radar, breath alcohol measuring instruments and other highway safety equipment.

Not a Single Accident

Raven Transport of Jacksonville, Florida installed the system on 12 tractors and 45 trailers, and has been pleased with the results. "We have not had a single accident since the LookoutTM systems have been installed," said Bill Wiese, Raven's Director of Safety. Based on the success of the system so far, and the overwhelmingly positive response on the part of Raven's drivers as well as requests from those whose trucks aren't LookoutTM equipped, the company is planning to use more of the units in the near future. "We are talking with Volvo about having the factory install the system in our next group of tractors," says Steve Silverman, Raven's C.E.O.

In closing, Wiese says, "Over the years, I can't tell you how many cars we paid for from backups and right side crunches. I wish we'd had this system then. The LookoutTM gives drivers a third eye for making sure people or objects are not in a driver's blind spot."

For information about LookoutTM, contact Safety Enterprises toll free at (888) 689-9222 or visit their web site at

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