Motorists in Minnesota may have noticed trucks fitted with large yellow boxes as they approach highway construction zones. These boxes are called attenuators, and they are essentially honeycombs made of aluminum and filled with either air or sand. They are designed to protect highway maintenance and construction crews from out-of-control cars or trucks by absorbing collision forces and directing wrecked vehicles away from workers.
While attenuators work well, 49 highway workers were still struck and killed in 2014. Being behind the wheel of an attenuator truck can also be extremely hazardous when a fully laden tractor trailer is approaching at highway speeds with a distracted or sleeping driver behind the wheel. Pennsylvania-based Royal Truck & Equipment is a leading manufacturer of attenuator trucks, and it recently unveiled a vehicle that uses autonomous technology originally developed to protect U.S. military personnel from land mines.
The autonomous attenuator truck is designed to be an added layer of protection that will travel behind a manned attenuator truck. The autonomous technology, which was developed by the Florida-based military contractor Micro Systems Inc., uses a series of sensors and computers to determine when the truck should speed up, slow down and turn. Another benefit of the system is that it is portable and can be easily retrofitted to traditional manned attenuator trucks.
While some workplace injuries can be recovered from fairly quickly, workers who are struck by vehicles traveling at highway speeds will generally have to cope without a paycheck for considerable periods. Workers’ compensation benefits may help injured workers to make ends meet until they are able to rejoin the workforce, but the claims procedure can seem confusing and capricious to those not familiar with it. Attorneys with a background in this area could assist those injured while at work with their claims and appear on their behalf during subsequent hearings if a claim is disputed or denied.