In the course of technical progress, more and more driver assistance systems are becoming mandatory for trucks. They minimise the danger in road traffic for you as a driver and for other road users. Predictive driver assistance systems can prevent accidents using sensor technology and calculations. However, not all trucks are equipped with these systems. Some of them are also criticised because they work better in theory than in practice.
Overview of the most common driver assistance systems
- Turning assistants: Sensors check the entire side of the truck and a lane width next to it. If something or someone moves in this area, the driver receives a light signal. If there is an acute danger of an accident, an acoustic signal sounds. If you, as the driver, do not intervene quickly enough, some of the systems can also brake automatically. This driver assistance system is not only helpful at junctions, but also and especially on the motorway when changing lanes.
- Adaptive cruise control: This driver assistance system uses a front camera to measure the distance to the vehicle in front and automatically adjusts the speed of the truck to maintain the prescribed distance.
- ABS: The anti-lock braking system has long been part of everyday life. It ensures that the wheels do not lock during braking. This means the vehicle can still be steered during braking.
- Work lights: Especially in dark laybys or poorly lit loading areas, manoeuvring can be difficult. This is where the additional work lights come in: You can use them to carefully illuminate the corresponding spaces.
- ESP: The Electronic Stability Program has also been mandatory in trucks since 2014. By means of targeted braking of individual wheels, it prevents the truck from skidding when over- or understeering in a bend.
- Speed limit when reversing: The system limits the possible speed when reversing to 9 km/h. This gives you, the driver, enough time to find the right lock angle.
- Blind spot camera system: There are a number of blind spots on the truck that you as the driver cannot see. The camera system films all these angles with cameras at the front, rear and both sides of the truck. Depending on where you are heading, the image from the appropriate camera is shown on a display.
- Light sensor: It senses the lighting conditions and automatically adjusts the truck’s headlights.
- Emergency braking assistant: This driver assistance system is already mandatory in all trucks produced since 2015. The emergency brake assistant continuously calculates the speed and distance to other road users. It warns the driver with visual and acoustic signals if the speed is too high and the distance is too short. If necessary, the system itself can initiate emergency braking.
- Lane departure warning system: Since 2015 it has been installed in every truck in Germany – the lane departure warning system uses a front camera to check whether the truck is in its lane. If you leave the lane without having set the indicator or braked, an acoustic signal warns you. Some of the driver assistance systems can also intervene in the steering process. This can prevent accidents in case of the driver nodding off.
- Rain sensor: If it starts to rain, the wipers switch on automatically at the appropriate setting.
- Reversing assistant: Reversing is not entirely straightforward for trucks. A rear-view camera makes this task easier, and a beep warns you of a possible collision.
Driving assistance systems are not without limitations
While some driver assistance systems are more of a nice feature to have than actually necessary (such as the rain or light sensor), predictive driver assistance systems can save lives in an emergency. Nevertheless, it happens time and again that truck drivers switch them off. This is mainly because they are more harmful than useful in many traffic situations. The lane departure warning system does not understand, for example, why in a set of road works the truck does not want to stay in the specified lane and beeps continuously. Adaptive cruise control can also be a hindrance – for example when you want to overtake. In addition, many trucks use the slipstream of the vehicles in front to save fuel. The adaptive cruise control function does not allow this either.
Summary: Driver assistance systems are not perfect, but necessary
Traffic on the motorways, country roads and in the cities continues to increase. It is difficult to always keep track of things on your own. This is why driver assistance systems can actually save lives. Many accidents involving trucks show that the rescue systems had been switched off. For this reason, sensitive fines are planned.