Truck driver fatigue is one of the most under reported causes of accidents simply because it is very difficult to document. Even with rules that mandate rest periods and limited driving hours, fatigue can still occur because of some practices in the trucking industry that are not favorable to the drivers.
Although there have been several attempts to use new technologies to observe and mitigate the occurrence of truck driver fatigue, there are still a few challenges that need to be addressed before it can see widespread adoption.
One problem is that technologies tend to be adopted late by trucking companies because of the costs involved in applying them given that the industry already runs on tight margins. But as technologies become cheaper and more powerful the benefits that they offer become difficult to ignore. Below are a few ways that new technologies are slowly being applied in the trucking industry to combat truck driver fatigue.
Daniel Bongers, chief technology officer at SmartCap, believes that their product can help ensure that drivers don’t drive more than they are legally allowed to and that they take mandatory breaks.
The SmartCap is a headband that fits into trucker caps, beanies or other head gear. It measures electronic brain waves and translates them to measure alertness or driver fatigue. It then notifies the driver and a central monitoring system if the wearer appears drowsy.
This device measures the driver’s eye blinking with an LED light monitor. If it sees that the eyelids stay down too long, it might indicate a sleepy driver. The real-time data are displayed on a dash-mounted device with alarms and notifications.
Maven Machines has developed a monitor that checks the driver’s head bobs and jerks to identify if a driver is looking forward through the windshield, up, down or sideways. It can also measure mirror checks because this behavior has been shown to decrease in frequency in instances of truck driver fatigue.
The headset pulls data from accelerometers embedded inside, sensors in the truck’s onboard computer and GPS data from nearby cellphone towers. This information lets them know if a driver is driving at an unsafe speed, or perhaps just passing someone, going down a hill or crossing a highway overpass that runs above a surface street with a lower speed limit.
The Guardian is a product from Seeing Machines, which is a dashboard mounted black cylinder with a camera in it. It tracks the face and gaze of the driver and sends this data to a tracking algorithm to determine if safety parameters are not met. The driver could then be alerted through audio alarms or driver’s seat vibrations.
Fatigue Predicting Software
Not all the devices are designed to track driver fatigue in real time. Some try to predict a driver’s drowsiness through software.
Fatigue Science sells software that analyzes sleep data from wearables, such as the quality and quantity of a driver’s sleep plus their sleep history or sleep debt, in order to predict when they feel tired. It is more of a predictive tool, as well as a personal alert system. The predictions assist drivers to become more aware of fatigue risk before it happens, and it allows companies to adjust shift schedules and provide better sleep management based on the information provided by the software.
While the notion of self-driving trucks are still years away, companies will continue developing monitoring technologies for drivers. These technologies are great tools in helping prevent truck driver fatigue so they can stay alert at all times while on the road.
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