World-first study tests distraction and fatigue in truck drivers

trucks stock image

A landmark study analysing truck driver performance behind the wheel has provided a world-first window into fatigue and distraction among truck drivers.

In a world-first study, researchers from Monash University’s Accident Research Centre (MUARC), in partnership with Seeing Machines, Ron Finemore Transport and Volvo Trucks Australia, tested fatigue prevention and driver-monitoring technology in working fleet trucks on the road, and in a new purpose-built truck simulator based at MUARC to measure truck driver performance.

The world-class Guardian technology, by Seeing Machines, actively monitors for and alerts commercial drivers to fatigue and distraction in real time. In this study, Seeing Machines’ automotive grade technology was used alongside Guardian, to study driver behaviour and the team was able to accurately detect the drivers’ level of fatigue well before a safety critical event like a microsleep occurred.

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

With the direct input of Ron Finemore Transport, the team fitted 10 fleet trucks with the technology and monitored drivers for nine months. Over 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.

Using Australia’s first Truck Simulator, Monash researchers conducted tests on 25 truck drivers and 74 car 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%) in fatigue condition and eight (28%) 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.

The study provided 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.

The $6.5m Advanced Safe Truck Concept (ASTC), a Co-operative Research Centre Project, was funded by the Australian Government in partnership with Canberra-based driver monitoring technology company Seeing Machines, the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC), Ron Finemore Transport Services and Volvo Trucks Australia.

The Hon Scott Buchholz, Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight, visited 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, Mr Buchholz said.

“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.”

Source: Monash University

Most Popular

To Top