EDITORIAL | Trucking fatigue study applies to mariners

Results of a recent fatigue prevention study for truck drivers have been revealed by Melbourne’s Monash University.

The landmark study, conducted by the University’s Accident Research Centre in conjunction with Seeing Machines, Ron Finemore Transport and Volvo Trucks Australia, tested fatigue prevention and driver monitoring technology in working trucks and in a new purpose-built simulator.

The research and resulting recommendations have obvious relevance to the maritime sector, from the largest ships down to small fishing boats.

The world-class Guardian technology of Seeing Machines monitors and alerts commercial truck drivers to fatigue and distraction in real time. It enabled the research team to accurately detect driver fatigue levels well before safety critical events such as a micro-sleep occurred.

They also tested driver distraction and created a comprehensive distraction warning system for them. More than 100 drivers, driving 22,000 trips across 1.5 million kilometres were tested.

The simulator was also revealing. Drivers were deprived of sleep and then intentionally distracted. 29 crashes were simulated with 21 (72 per cent in fatigued condition and eight (28 per cent) when alert. Drivers were twice as likely to crash when fatigued and 11 times more likely when both fatigued and distracted.

The study provides a unique test bed for the evolving sophistication of the sensor technology that aims to reduce truck crashes, improve driver wellbeing and help truck owners better manage their drivers’ fatigue. Alarms signal the driver and his seat vibrates rapidly when he is detected to be fatigued or distracted. Simultaneously, the truck company is notified so it can notify and alert the driver directly.

The technology could readily be transferred to the maritime industry to alert helmsmen, watch officers and masters when fatigue and distraction is becoming a problem.

For more information contact the Monash University Accident Centre.

Neil Baird

Co-founder and former Editor-in-Chief of Baird Maritime and Work Boat World magazine, Neil has travelled the length and breadth of this planet in over 40 years in the business. He knows the global work boat industry better than anyone.