TA2019 delegates have say on better fatigue management
THERE was little opportunity for attendees at this month's Trucking Australia conference to nod off during sessions, but the presentations on managing fatigue and driver health were probably the worst place to do it.
Presenters and moderators in Perth kept a sharp eye out for sleepy-heads, but the collaboration format meant most people at tables were involved in group discussions anyway.
At the last session on fatigue management, four groups examined set topics: A better fatigue system using work and rest hours, accreditation, record keeping, and fatigue monitoring.
Feedback to the national heavy vehicle regulator will assist in recommendations for national fatigue management that will focus on overall driver health rather than just driving hours.
Like the emissions control arena, it was apparent from the currently available technology and many existing fleet systems that the industry is already marching ahead of the regulators.
In-cab systems linked to steering wheel monitors that measure heart health, wearable devices that track weariness indications, and in some cases fatigue education and sleep consultations for drivers are all on the menu for fleets to utilise in minimising the human cost of fatigue.
A consistent theme was that the rules are not just about counting time and need a close review. In WA for example, fatigue management is run by Health and Safety and stipulates time of work, whether that be driving or other activity.
With one wristband technology survey finding that some shifts provoked an alertness deficit equivalent to a .08 blood alcohol concentration, the take-up of new technologies is likely to accelerate.
Reducing Risk through Technology and Safety
"Stay on the road and don't hit anything,” used to be the mantra for owners setting a new driver up for a regular run. In the early eighties it progressed to the wide-open statement "Safe working place.”.
Then chain of responsibility rules arrived in 2014, and "excessively demanding customers” became proportionately responsible for the safety of the truck, driver and other road users.
Today, a swelling tide of safety and driver aid technology for both inside and outside the cab has larger companies demanding transport operators upgrade their equipment to available technologies.
One of the larger north-west operators has a permanent health, safety and environment professional to manage the drivers of 100 PBS quads that clock up 100,000 a day, 24/7.
Geoff Taylor showed attendees details of driver sleep and inattention incidents that resulted in roll-overs. These events have declined dramatically since in-cab and cloud-based technology has been put in place.
Micro-sleeps and distractions are the two biggest events that trigger a catastrophe. Distractions are becoming more frequent - music, mobiles, paperwork, drinks from a water bottle, monitoring/using GPS, and even on one instance, making a sandwich! All it takes is for one axle group to go off the road and it'll take the train with it.
Geoff told us that 12 drivers who didn't realise they had a clinical problem have gone through sleep apnoea checks and now use CPAP machines at night.
Full truck autonomy will fix all of that, but that's still a long way off. In the meantime, keeping drivers healthy and competent is critical to high productivity in a demanding environment.