Highway maintenance and repair workers in Virginia and across the country are endangered every day by speeding vehicles with distracted, fatigued or intoxicated drivers behind the wheel. Conventional safety systems like arrow boards and warning signs are of little use when motorists are not paying attention, and the problem is particularly dangerous when the vehicles involved are fully laden semi-tractor trailers traveling at highway speeds that can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds.
Highway workers are protected in these situations by manned trucks fitted with attenuators. These are metal boxes with aluminum honeycomb centers that are sometimes filled with sand. The boxes are designed to absorb the energy of a colliding vehicle and direct these forces safely away from workers. While this type of setup works well, the nation's largest maker of attenuator trucks has developed an autonomous system to provide workers with an extra layer of protection.
The autonomous attenuator truck developed by Royal Truck & Equipment uses technology originally developed for navigating minefields on the battlefield featuring computers that allow it to safely maneuver around obstacles. The autonomous vehicle is designed to be used in addition to a manned attenuator truck. According to data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 49 highway workers lost their lives in 2014 after being struck by moving cars, trucks or SUVs.
While the Virginia workers' compensation program is designed to provide financial assistance to those injured on the job and prevent litigation being filed against employers, injured workers may still be able to sue negligent third parties. Attorneys with experience in workplace accident cases may assist injured highway workers with their workers' compensation claims, and they could also seek civil remedies on their behalf by filing personal injury lawsuits against negligent drivers.