Fatigue and driver distraction risks results unveiled


Tests reveal drivers are 11 times more likely to crash when fatigued plus distracted

Fatigue and driver distraction risks results unveiled
A tech-laden Ron Finemore Transport Volvo FH16 at MUARC on Monash University’s leafy Clayton campus

 

Ron Finemore Transport has hailed a landmark fatigue study as a vindication of its truck-driver safety technology policy.

The world-first study saw researchers from Monash University’s Accident Research Centre (MUARC), in partnership with Seeing Machines, Ron Finemore Transport (RFT) and Volvo Trucks Australia, test fatigue prevention and driver-monitoring technology.

The effort will also be seen as backing industry calls for fatigue regulations to be brought into the 21st century using technology to give a science-backed solution.

The Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) was particularly vocal on the subject last year and the year before and was involved with testing SmarCap, SkyNet, Seeing Machines and DriveCam technologies with fleets in the state on highways and around the Port of Brisbane.

It was conducted in working fleet trucks on the road, and in a new purpose-built truck simulator based at MUARC to measure truck driver performance.

Distraction

MUARC says Monash researchers conducted tests on 74 truck drivers under different conditions, using Big Data to fine-tune the technology that will be rolled out in future vehicles.

The drivers were sleep deprived and then intentionally distracted during driver simulation for two hours.

Researchers recorded 29 crashes in the simulator, with 21 (72 per cent) in fatigue condition and eight (28 per cent) of the crashes while drivers were alert.

Drivers were twice as likely to crash when fatigued, but 11 times more likely to crash when fatigued and distracted at the same time.

"Ron Finemore Transport is extremely proud to have been part of a project that addresses a critical need to develop validated solutions to better manage truck driver behaviour and safety," RFT MD Mark Parry says.

"This technology is central to Ron Finemore’s approach to safety.

"The company places the highest priority on safety and this technology gives us the tools to ensure our drivers are operating safely and efficiently.

"By allowing researchers to work with our truck drivers directly, they now have a detailed understanding of their tasks, needs, and driving environments.

"We see this approach as the future for regulating fleet safety across the board. To meet the needs of communities by ensuring that daily necessities such as food and fuel are available when needed our fleet operates across a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation.

"Keeping our drivers safe and being able to detect fatigue and distraction prior to an incident or accident will help keep our drivers and other road users safe.

"This will support our company’s proactive approach to driver safety and wellbeing – which is at the centre of our business from culture to operations."

The study involved Seeing Machines’ Guardian, which monitors for and alerts commercial drivers to fatigue and distraction in real time, coupled with its automotive grade technology to study driver behaviour.


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MUARC says this allowed the team to accurately detect the drivers’ level of fatigue well before a safety critical event like a micro-sleep occurred.

It also tested distraction monitoring in real-time – "and the technology can now detect where the driver is looking, in a never done before breakthrough innovation", it adds.

"The team also created a comprehensive distraction warning system for drivers."

With RFT input, the team fitted 10 fleet trucks with the technology and monitored drivers for nine months.

More than 100 drivers enrolled in the study, collectively driving 22,000 trips across over 1.5 million kilometres, "resulting in the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind in the world".

"Advances in the technology made possible by this research means the driver can be alerted to fatigue and distraction much earlier, and then take immediate steps to avoid a safety critical event like the vehicle leaving the lane and being involved in a crash," Seeing Machines’ program lead Dr Mike Lenné says.

"Through satellite the driver’s truck company is also alerted and can start communicating directly with the driver to minimise harm."

Dr Lenné says the project gives Australia a competitive advantage to position the technology globally.

"The project has resulted in the pioneering of advanced technology that positions Australia as a leader in driver monitoring technology innovation," he adds.

"It will allow Australia to influence the global approach to the regulation of professional driving and improve heavy vehicle safety.

"This is a great example of industry working together, with the support of our government, to enhance safety with a proven policy approach and see it put into practice."

The study is seen as providing a unique test-bed for the evolving sophistication of the sensor technology that aims to reduce heavy vehicle crashes in Australia, improve truck driver well-being and help truck companies better manage their drivers’ fatigue.

The technology system consists of small cameras and connected sensors installed in the vehicle. It is so sensitive, it can detect the eyes blinking, head position, and where the driver is looking.

An alarm signals driver fatigue or distraction and the driver seat vibrates rapidly. An alert is also sent by satellite immediately to the Seeing Machines 24/7 monitoring centre, accessible by the truck company in real time, so they can contact the driver and initiate a fatigue management plan.

Detection

"It’s the first time this type of technology has been tested in a fleet of trucks going about their normal business operations – and because of this, drowsiness and distraction can be detected earlier and with incredibly high accuracy," associate director of MUARC associate professor Michael Fitzharris says.

"Driver monitoring systems of this type and sophistication will have significant road safety benefits, not just for trucks but for future passenger vehicles.

"With driver distraction and drowsiness known to be key contributors to road fatalities and injuries globally, this research will enable the implementation of highly advanced and sophisticated driver monitoring technology that will play a key role in reducing the number of people killed and injured on our roads in the future.

"This is not just for trucks, but all passenger vehicles. This will improve the safety of all road users, including pedestrians and cyclists."

Fitzharris said the research would allow a re-think of current best practice in managing driver fatigue and distraction levels for commercial drivers, and has major implications for policy.

"This research will enable the implementation of highly advanced and sophisticated driver monitoring technology that will play a key role in reducing the number of people killed and injured on our roads in the future," he said.

"Our research at MUARC played a role in seeing the introduction of frontal and head protecting side air bags in all new vehicles, as well as Electronic Stability Control. I hope that history can repeat itself with this technology included in all new vehicles here in Australia, and around the world."

The $6.5 million Advanced Safe Truck Concept (ASTC), a Co-operative Research Centre Project, was funded by the federal government in partnership with RFT, Volvo and MUARC.

Federal Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Hon Scott Buchholz, attended MUARC at the University’s Clayton campus to announce the findings.

"The Australian Government is proud to have funded this study through the Cooperative Research Centre Project," Buchholz says.

"The Advanced Safe Truck Concept represents the largest and most comprehensive study into driver behaviour using naturalistic (real-life) driving.

"Our government is proud to support initiatives like this project that allows industry, academia and government to work to not only explore best technologies available but also make a real contribution to road safety."

Seeing Machines, Monash University Accident Research Centre,MUARC, Ron Finemore Transport ,RFT, Volvo, Scott Buchholz, Michael Fitzharris, Mike Lenné, Queensland Trucking Association,QTA, was particularly vocal on the subject last year and was involved with testing SmarCap, SkyNet, Seeing Machines,DriveCam,Mark Parry,

A tech-laden Ron Finemore Transport Volvo FH16 at MUARC on Monash University’s leafy Clayton campus

 

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