We read and hear much about ADAS – Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mentions it in the Tech-Celerate program. FMCSA rulemakings and truck manufacturer literature frequently highlight ADAS, from automatic emergency braking (AEB) and adaptive cruise control systems to lane-keeping assist, and camera-based mirror systems.

Advanced driver assistance systems can reduce human error, help improve road safety, and make truck driving a little less dangerous. But for ADAS to achieve those goals, there needs to be a greater emphasis on the most important words in ADAS – driver assistance.

ADAS is not the same as automated or autonomous driving. FMCSA published a Supplemental Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the necessary regulatory changes to safely integrate automated driving systems-equipped (ADS-equipped) commercial motor vehicles into the traffic stream. To be clear, ADS is not the same as ADAS. As the word driver in ADAS indicates, there is a human present, a real truck driver. And that human driver must be fully present – rested and alert – because all ADAS can offer is assistance.

To safely utilize the assistance offered by ADAS, truck drivers must be trained in the specific technology on their vehicle, down to the exact model installed. ADAS models differ by manufacturer and by year. The driver must learn the ADAS controls, such as how to turn a system on and off and how to adjust the volume or frequency of ADAS-generated warnings and alerts. They also must learn how to input information that ADAS technology requires for operation, such as the desired following distance for an adaptive cruise control system.

Any driver training must address these two ADAS limitations:

  • ADAS is never a substitute for truck driver judgment and awareness. The adaptive cruise control system may default to a standard following distance for the current speed of the truck, but only truck driver judgment can determine if road and traffic conditions require a greater distance. The AEB system may prevent a catastrophic crash, but only truck driver awareness and braking action can completely eliminate the possibility of a rear-end collision. Truck driver training should stress that ADAS is assistance. Overreliance on technology remains a real and present danger.
  • ADAS can fail. Of course, all mechanical and technological equipment can develop problems over time. But ADAS specifically relies on cameras and/or sensors to perform its functions. Cameras and sensors can be damaged by road debris and smudged by mud, sleet, and snow. Truck driver training should include a reminder to assess the need to clean camera and sensor locations during pre-trip inspections and to understand that ADAS responsiveness is based on a truck in good mechanical condition. Drivers may need to make allowances for the condition of their truck.

The most important words in ADAS are driver assistance. Some truck drivers, though, may view ADAS as an intrusion, as taking the very act of truck operation away from them.

For those truck drivers, a thank you is in order – thank you for continuing to be the driver needed to safely utilize ADAS. Just know that with your truck’s new technology and your ADAS training, you now have assistance in an emergency situation. Continue to be the good truck driver you are now with a technological friend on board.

The PrePass blog and podcasts are published as a public service of PrePass®, the most reliable and technologically advanced weigh station bypass and integrated electronic trucking toll payment platform in North America. PrePass also includes INFORM™ Safety and INFORM™ Tolling software for improving truck safety scores and lowering toll costs.