One of the options which has gained currency in the reform of the Heavy Vehicle National Law is including fatigue monitoring tech as part of a fatigue management program to ensure better safety outcomes in terms of fatigue. Operators using some of the technologies should be able to use it to gain concessions on driving schedules.
The work diary is a way of giving a roadside inspector an idea of where a driver might be in terms of fatigue. What the new technology does is monitor the driver directly and provides alarms and alerts when they reach a threshold which can be hours before they are expected to rest by the law.
Alerts by the systems should be the trigger for a conversation between the operator and driver working together to manage the driver’s fatigue. A one-off event might mean nothing needs to be done, but it might be enough to decide to pull up and take a 15 minute break.
“We have done a bit of research into the fatigue monitoring technology and the technology is better than the rules we have now at predicting of fatigue incidents,” says Andreas Blahous, National Heavy Vehicle Regulator Senior Specialist (Fatigue Management). “The solution doesn’t have to just be different work and rest hours rules. This is about managing a driver.”
In order to enable the systems to be used as an intrinsic part of a fatigue management scheme there will probably have to be a process of technology classification, checking out what the different systems bring to the table.
“In our research we spoke to about 95 users of the fatigue monitoring technology,” says Andreas. “There’s about six different categories of technology and some of the technologies work better than others. You get different things from different technologies.
“What the NHVR is considering is a voluntary standard. This will explain what the technology does and what is going to be acceptable to the NHVR when it is considering allowing fatigue regime flexibility for operators.
“It will not be saying you must have this technology, it will be saying, if you want this kind of flexibility, we will only give it when you have this particular type of technology because we know that works the best in this situation.”
According to Andreas, the voluntary code is essential, because the NHVR doesn’t want to see trucking investing in some technology and not get a regulatory benefit.
From the voluntary standards the operator will not only learn what the technology does, but how the driver needs to be managed when there is an alert. The plan would be for the NHVR to publish best practice guides on buying, setting the system up and managing its introduction, and then about managing drivers when the technology is in play. This post-alarm management is going to prove to be a major factor in any future regime.
“There are probably forty different ways to deal with a driver when the alarm goes off,” says Andreas. “This can be a vital part of the process. The industry will be able to inform others how to introduce the technology to make it safer for everyone on the road.
“Where we are coming from, is that if the operator has a good system in place, if the technology works reliably and they have a good way to manage the situation, then we can pull back some of the existing rules in the law.”
The flexibility on offer could include continuous driving, splitting rest periods or other concessions to improve flexibility. At the moment, the NHVR is working with the makers of these technologies to work out what an operational pilot might look like.
In the future, using fatigue monitoring tech as part of a fatigue management program, the pooling of data from these fatigue monitoring devices should lead to detailed analysis of fatigue events, using anonymised data. Analysis could help investigate what is going on out on the highway. Hot spots could be identified and solutions sought.