Truck driver fatigue is a leading factor in crashes nationwide, so much so that government and companies are constantly trying to develop technology to combat it. In 2014, nearly 4,000 people lost their lives in crashes with tractor-trailers.
For many years, efforts focused solely on improving the nation’s infrastructure and vehicles in ways that would avoid crashes or reduce their impact. For example, vehicle manufacturers have developed and offered technology such as anti-lock braking systems, adaptive cruise control, and electronic stability control, all of which can help compensate for driver error. On the horizon are advanced autonomous vehicles of varying levels.
Those in the trucking industry already use devices such as cameras and global positioning systems to monitor driver habits, but until recently, the focus has “been sensors on the vehicle to detect if it’s leaving its lane or if it’s too close to the vehicle in front or if the driver slams on his brakes.”
An exciting new development takes the technology directly to the driver. A Pennsylvania company has developed a nonintrusive headset that uses 13 sensors to monitor driver movements. The headset has the ability to determine if a driver’s head is nodding, for example. It can also monitor driver mirror checks.
When the headset detects trouble, it notifies the driver immediately so that corrective action may be taken. The goal is to reduce distracted driving and trucker fatigue in a material way, improving roadway safety for everyone. Companies that purchase the devices can aggregate data to use for employee training and can monitor individual driver data in real time.
The headset also allows trucking companies to communicate directly with their drivers. A driver may respond “by nodding his or her head or using simple verbal commands.”