For many regions of the country, winter lasts long into March and it’s not uncommon to have the occasional snowfall in early April. This means fleets must have a comprehensive winterization action plan that lasts several months and a strategy based off the entire calendar, especially for the latest technologies increasingly found on assets.
The process of winterization continues to evolve from just a few years ago, and advanced, sophisticated truck technology means fleets and their maintenance personnel must take a wide look at their trucks when preparing for winter. As an example, it’s becoming more common to have Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) as part of the specs when ordering and operating equipment today, and includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot detection, and forward-collision warning systems. All of these systems need to be prepared for the weather they’ll face.
In particular, features like lane departure warning systems use video, laser, and/or infrared lasers to detect visible road markings that are covered by snow, slush, salt, or ice. Forward-collision warning systems use front-facing cameras or radar to take corrective action, and all of these sensors may be affected by snow, slush, salt, or ice.
The importance of communicating with drivers
Communicating with drivers can be key in properly maintaining these technologies, especially during the winter months. It is important to discuss with drivers that ADAS isn’t there simply to assist with safety and driving, but that drivers still must be in control of the vehicle at all times, especially when roads are slippery and stopping distances need to be increased, even with ADAS. They may also need to clean the sensors, radars, and cameras for the lane departure warning and forward-collision warning systems more than once during a trip when driving in snowy or icy conditions.
However, this communication must also go both ways regarding winter maintenance. Technicians must listen to the drivers, as they can provide an immense amount of feedback when it comes to what the ADAS system is doing and how it is operating in strenuous conditions. As an example, some of the early versions of forward collision radars were detecting everything and the drivers were reporting that the trucks were hard braking on their own. These issues were likely rectified from their feedback and evolution of the technology and will continue to do so to increase driver’s safety when the roads are at their worst.
Are your technicians up to speed on ADAS?
Fleets must also ensure their technicians are trained on the latest ADAS technology if they want to maintain it throughout the colder months. Technicians must be able to use diagnostic software to check for power, ground, and data link connections. Lack of knowledge on these items can lead to increased costs and a broken system, all of which leads to greater downtime. Training technicians on OEM and aftermarket ADAS systems, as well as providing them with refresher training, is critical in keeping up with this ever-changing technology and how it responds to the seasonal temperature change.
Additionally, technicians need to know how to best inspect for small amounts of salt or other road chemicals that can negatively impact connectors and components, during the winter, otherwise, their ADAS may be compromised.
However, even during the warmer months technicians need to know how to address ADAS technology, which can be very different from diagnosing other aspects of a vehicle.
For example, the most significant culprit with ADAS issues typically centers around a drop in voltage. It takes as little as 0.2 volts to set off a sensor; and any corrosion in any part of the wiring has the potential to cause this. Technicians must start their diagnosis with the obvious point of corrosion: the battery.
To catch these issues before they begin, fleets should add ADAS to their PM (Preventive Maintenance) schedules now. Servicing the ADAS is just as important as an oil change or tire rotation. Proactive monitoring will mitigate potential issues, even if the ADAS just needs a software upgrade.
About The Author: Matthew Wiedmeyer, CTP, is the Director of Fleet Services at Fleet Advantage, a leading innovator in truck fleet business analytics, equipment financing and lifecycle cost management. For more information visit www.FleetAdvantage.com.