Driving a truck is not easy, and for many drivers, distraction and fatigue is just part of the job. But new video and analytics technology can not only pinpoint the signs of driver fatigue and distraction but also help fleets customize training to prevent these dangerous behaviors.
Fatigue Detection Technology
Fatigue monitoring systems are designed to decrease accidents through the use of wearable technology, smartphone-based tests, and dash camera systems. These technologies not only identify and sideline drivers who show significant signs of fatigue but could lead to more personalized hours-of-service regulations for all truckers.
Here are five of the newest anti-fatigue technologies currently gaining traction in the trucking industry:
- Fatigue meters. This technology uses hours-of-service logs to predict driver fatigue levels by estimating each driver’s sleep pattern based on actual duty periods and then uses the estimate to predict fatigue, with scores updating every 15 minutes to give managers a continuous, nearly real-time fatigue assessment of every driver in the fleet.
- Wearables. Wristwatches, eyeglasses, and other Fitbit-like devices detect fatigue without a camera. Wearables use actigraphy to measure body movement, assess sleep quantity and quality, and predict how quickly a driver’s alertness will begin to decline.
- Anti-fatigue headwear. Specially designed smart hats and caps feature a strip on the inside that sits on the forehead, where sensors detect head movement, measure brainwaves for signs of fatigue, and communicate this information wirelessly to a unit in the truck’s cabin.
- Smartphone tests. Tests like the psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) measure the cognitive alertness of truckers. Originally developed by NASA to measure the fatigue level of astronauts, PVT tests are now being used by researchers to study driver fatigue and provide insight into a driver’s sleep quality and duration to offer a clearer image of a driver’s alertness and fatigue level.
- Facial mapping. Facial monitoring systems capture images from the driver’s face, looking for symptoms of fatigue and distraction from the eyes, mouth, and head, such as head nodding, drooping eyelids, gaze direction, yawning, and head orientation. The system then estimates driver alertness based on these symptoms.
Driver distraction is nothing new, and truck drivers have been losing focus long before the advent of mobile phones. This started with distractions from fiddling with the radio and eating to checking their logbooks while behind the wheel.
But anti-distraction technology can provide fleets with a complete picture of exactly what is distracting their drivers and the increased risk that the distraction is causing in terms of safety.
Here are some examples of emerging anti-distraction technologies for truckers, and how they are being used to improve driver safety:
- Cell phone blockers. Cell phone blocking technologies can be activated by adding the service to a wireless plan, downloading an app to a smartphone, or installing a device in the vehicle to prohibit calls or texts from coming in while the truck is in motion. More advanced systems have the capability to block audio features, monitor speed, and track sudden stops.
- Telematics devices. Truck telematics provides fleets with quick access to the locational, vehicle, and behavioral driver information. This technology delivers proactive data and analytics to help improve driver safety, productivity, compliance, and delivery times while also promising to reduce operating and fuel costs.
- In-cab video. Cameras inside the cab are increasingly being used to coach driver behavior rather than as a punitive measure. Driver scorecards can be set up to help truckers understand how their performance can turn their fleet’s overall safety around for the better. In many instances, in-cab video systems have been proven to increase driver safety, reduce litigation and insurance costs for fleets, and exonerate drivers from liability for crashes.
- Artificial intelligence. AI-powered systems can be used to track driver fatigue, inattention, and other risky behaviors. AI will eventually allow trucks to drive autonomously, although that is likely not going to take place for several more decades, as the rollout is extremely gradual, and local drivers will be needed for continuing training of the system.
- Hands-free technology. Voice-activated digital assistants enable truck drivers to send and receive important information without taking their hands off the wheel to launch an application on a device, which is a deadly source of distraction for many truckers and drivers in general.