Safety Technology for a Better Driving Experience

A smiling truck drivers looks out his driver-side truck window.

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, also called ADAS, are designed to augment driver capabilities and enhance safety. They also have the added benefits of increasing driver comfort and improving the overall driving experience.

“The world has certainly changed and there is a lot of new technology that can help reduce the stress in drivers’ lives and help reduce driver fatigue,” said Chuck Pagesy, director of safety for Penske Truck Leasing.

Innovations include automated emergency braking, which takes action to prevent an imminent collision, and adaptive cruise control that automatically adjusts speed to maintain a safe following distance. “It applies the brakes, so drivers aren’t going to rear-end somebody,” Pagesy said.

Steering systems have also advanced and now offer active pull compensation and active steering damping, which can enhance vehicle stability, improve handling characteristics, and provide better steering feel and control for the driver. Plus, systems can provide lane-keeping assistance and lane departure warnings. “The lane departure will give them an indication — a vibration or tug — that they are out of their lane,” Pagesy said.

Blind spot detection can increase drivers’ awareness. “Even something as simple as changing lanes can be improved because you get an indication it is clear,” Pagesy said. “The technology will tell you if someone is in your blind spot.”

The use of ADAS technology has increased. The American Trucking Associations’ 2023 safety investment survey determined that the industry invested almost $14 billion in safety in 2022, up from $9.8 billion in 2014. ATA said fleets are investing in voluntary, progressive safety initiatives that go beyond regulatory requirements.

“A lot of fleets are putting as many features in there as possible to make them safer and more fuel efficient,” Pagesy said, adding that a lot of technology is still an add-on that fleets have to spec. “Unless it is mandated, a lot of manufacturers don’t add it.”

The federal government is considering mandates for safety solutions and encouraging voluntary adoption. The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently announced additional funding for its TechCelerate Now program, an initiative aimed at accelerating ADAS adoption. Phase 2 of the program will focus on developing new and updated technical information and guidelines for various ADAS technologies and an ROI calculator.

“We’re very pleased to continue the progress TechCelerate Now has made in examining various safety technologies and setting a course for expanding the industry dialogue on the potential safety benefits of these systems,” said Jeff Loftus, chief of the advanced technology division at FMCSA’s office of research and registration.

Pagesy said that despite the many advantages of ADAS, it is important that drivers avoid becoming complacent, and fleets need to educate drivers about the benefits and limits of the systems. “You can never overtrain. I think to utilize those features and get the maximum benefits, the more drivers know, the better off they are,” he said. “Taking the time to educate the driver, whether through online training or training when a driver gets a new truck, pays dividends.”