Volvo's Accident Research Team Profiled

The team visits 20-25 truck accident scenes annually to determine how the accidents happened and what happened to the truck involved. Since its formation in 1969, the team has investigated more than 1,600 crashes and has built an extensive database.

The work done by members of the Volvo Trucks Accident Research Team was profiled Dec. 21 in an article written by Karin Wik of the Volvo Group Newsdesk. The five-member team visits 20 to 25 accident scenes each year, most of them in Sweden, to determine what went wrong and see what damage was done to the trucks involved.

"You can learn things from real life that you can never predict," team member Anna Wrige Berling said in the article, which includes photos of Berling and Stig Boman, another team member, examining a Volvo FM truck that was hauling timber and rolled over while taking a corner at low speed in Gothenburg.

The team was formed in 1969 and has investigated more than 1,600 accidents that now are chronicled in a database for use by Volvo engineers. "This team is still fairly unique in that we routinely look for accidents that interest us with a view to improving product safety," said Berling, who heads the team. Its members specialize in cabs, complete vehicles, advanced engineering, and technical service, Wik wrote.

"It is, for example, really interesting to find out whether a new model functions as it does in our tests. We often find that a truck functions as it is supposed to, but every accident is still unique in its own way. This helps us to find new crash situations from which we can learn and identify improvements for future Volvo trucks," Berling said. "That's why we always try to interview the driver about his or her experience. This is extremely important for us."

Berling said they find many drivers still do not wear a seat belt. "It's partly a question of comfort. Many drivers frequently have to jump in and out of their cabs, and many of them also think that the safety belt doesn't fit well and chafes when the truck bumps up and down."

The driver in the Gothenburg crash was unhurt, thanks to his seat belt and the truck's rigid cab. Boman, who interviewed the driver and studied the accident scene, said he has a pretty good idea of the cause. "As it's laden with sawn timber, the center of gravity was probably high. Containers like this one are usually sealed, so the driver doesn't know how they are loaded. This can be a disadvantage."

According to Wik's article, the team began a three-year partnership with the China Automotive Technology and Research Centre in July 2011 to investigate accidents and learn about traffic safety in China on a wider level. CATARC is the Chinese authorities' organization responsible for research and certification relating to the country's traffic safety programs. "We don't know how things are organized in China, so we need to learn and obtain basic documentation for future decisions and priorities," said Claes Avedal, a product planner at Volvo 3P. "We need to learn more about the special traffic environment in China. It contains everything from the traffic systems of the future to outdated infrastructure, and the things that apply this year will have changed completely next year."

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