Australian trucking company has partnered with government and researchers in a world-first intervention to reduce fatigue in heavy truck drivers.
A landmark study aims to reduce heavy vehicle crashes in Australia and improve truck driver wellbeing by using world-leading fatigue prevention and driver monitoring technology.
Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities Paul Fletcher today launched the $6.5 million Advanced Safe Truck Concept, an Australian Government Cooperative Research Centre Project, which will use new technology to study driver behaviour and the impact of driver fatigue and distraction.
Official figures show 2,462 Australians were killed as a result of involvement in heavy vehicle crashes between 2005 and 2014, which represented 18 per cent of deaths on Australian roads.
The trucking industry is a significant part of the Australian economy with over 500,000 registered trucks, 41,097 businesses and 259,508 employees, according to a 2016 National Transport Insurance report.
The researchers say the type of technology deployed in the project has the potential to be applied across all vehicles, potentially saving thousands of lives and preventing countless serious injuries.
The partnership is headed by Canberra-based company Seeing Machines and includes Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) and Ron Finemore Transport Services.
The study is a first to link in-cab driver monitoring technology with the external traffic and roadway in real-time. The Seeing Machines technology is fitted to a number of vehicles from the Ron Finemore Transport Services fleet.
The two-phase program builds on the Seeing Machines’ Guardian technology that monitors for and alerts drivers to fatigue and distraction.
Seeing Machines executive chairman Ken Kroeger said the technology positioned the project as a world-leading road safety initiative.
“We are proud to be at the forefront of road safety here in Australia and excited to see our driver monitoring technology delivering safety solutions across all transport sectors globally,” Mr Kroeger said.
The company’s chief scientific officer and project leader, Dr Michael Lenné, said the project provided an opportunity to drive clever product designs that could enhance road safety.
“It’s very rewarding to see the Australian Government recognise both the technological innovation and the road safety impact of this project,” Dr Lenné said.
Study could have ‘profound impact’
Phase one of the project has involved the testing of truck drivers in MUARC’s advanced driving simulator, which the centre says is the first time a truck simulator has been used for research in Australia. Drivers are tested in a rested and a fatigued state so a better understanding of fatigue on truck safety can be achieved.
MUARC director Judith Charlton said the research could make a profound impact in reducing fatalities in the freight industry.
“We pride ourselves on translating evidence-based research into real-world solutions and by working alongside our industry partners and with the support of the federal government, this project has the capacity to prevent injuries and save lives,” Professor Charlton said.
Ron Finemore Transport, which employs more than 450 people and has over 200 prime movers, will fit its fleet of trucks with the same driver monitoring technology as part of the project’s Naturalistic Road Safety Study.
Darren Wood, Ron Finemore Transport’s general manager, said the project would help make Australian roads safer not only for its truck drivers but all road users.
“As end users, we have the opportunity to influence the technology so it best addresses the needs of the freight industry,” he said.
Launching the initiative today Minister Fletcher congratulated Seeing Machines and the other project partners “for their important work.”
The project is expected to be completed at the end of 2019.
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