01 June 2022
Fatigue and distraction detection technology (FDDT) is a means to detect and alarm users of unsafe driving behaviours that indicate driver fatigue and/or distraction. But is this technology effective and how is it being received by the heavy vehicle industry?
In this article, we explore these questions by reviewing the findings of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) fatigue monitoring trial which was conducted in five phases between January 2019 and 2020. Outcomes from this trial are summarised below.
Phase one of the trial involved a review of the FDDT being used in the industry. The NHVR determined that there are currently six key areas in which these technologies operate:
Within the above technologies, continuous operator monitoring (oculomotor measurements) devices or face monitoring systems were deemed to offer the most value to users (drivers and transport companies). For this reason, they were chosen as the focus for phase two (below). However, the NHVR concluded that these devices should not be implemented as a standalone tool for fatigue management. Rather, they should be used as part of a Fatigue Risk Management System.
The second phase of the trial involved interviewing key stakeholders currently using or providing FDDTs to determine whether the technology could correctly identify unsafe driving behaviours attributable to fatigue and/or distraction. The outcome of the trial was to highlight the capability of such technologies to reduce fatigue and distraction-related events, thus improving safety outcomes within the industry. The key findings were as follows:
Accordingly, the results were overwhelmingly positive and in favour of further adoption of FDDTs within the industry. Therefore, while there are some challenges to overcome, it appears that FDDTs will become more common. Legislative and regulatory change is also required to promote the adoption of FDDT and to address the concerns of industry stakeholders.
There were three further phases conducted by the NHVR. These included a phase dedicated to field assessment of the FDDTs to assess their adaptability and validation of key findings from Phase two, consultation and reporting.
Unfortunately, the NHVR are yet to publish the findings from these phases. However, based on the outcomes of the first two phases, it appears that overall, the NHVR’s trial into FDDTs was overwhelmingly in favour of the further adoption of FDDTs, as they have been found to be effective in reducing fatigue and/or distraction-related events.
While it is clear there is a need for some fine-tuning with the regulatory framework and perhaps even the technology itself, there is no denying that they have had a positive impact on industry safety. It is believed that one in 10 heavy vehicle crashes are said to result from driver fatigue and possibly even more from distraction. Therefore, our initial questions about this technology have been quashed and we can only see the further introduction and implementation of FDDTs as a positive step towards ensuring all drivers on our roads are safer than ever before.
Authors: Melanie Long & Nathan Cecil
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