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Wearable technology a game changer in transportation safety

transportation safety for trucks

 

“The fact that you and your workforce are aware that fatigue could be an issue means that drivers are less likely to come up with some excuse when they hit a ditch.”

— Dan De Palma, Arrow Transportation Systems.

Recently one of our clients, Dan De Palma, General Manager of Northern Operations at Arrow Transportation Systems, and our own CEO Sean Kerklaan took time to talk with Fleet Owner Magazine. Topics ranged from health and safety to sleep and wearable technology in the trucking industry.

From hours of service regulation to insurance costs for trucking companies, both Kerklaan and De Palma offer experienced insights into the rapidly changing field of transportation safety. Of particular interest is what De Palma shares as it relates to the 200+ Arrow drivers who’ve used Fatigue Science technology to date, including the discovery of some significant, previously unknown health issues:

“We….learned that on average ten to twenty percent of our drivers had some sort of sleeping disorder,” De Palma told Fleet Owner. “We took a lot of pride in that because it was a way to give back to our workforce and say, “Look, I think you need some help.”

Definitely worth a further look for those interested in reducing fatigue-related accidents in the workplace. Read the full story here.

October 2016 Update: Arrow Transportation Systems was one of our customers featured in the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s The National in-depth report on driver fatigue.

Using technology to address driver fatigue in the railroad industry

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As new details of the recent train derailment in New York emerge, questions about risk management in the railroad industry keep surfacing. We won’t know for certain what the cause or causes of this unfortunate accident were until the final investigative report is released but in the meantime, media is leaning towards driver fatigue as the cause of the train derailment and have started raising questions about the possible use of various technologies to prevent accidents and save lives.

One such piece of technology in question is known as ‘positive train control’ (PTC) and works by setting permissions to onboard computers authorizing the vehicle’s safe travel route – including distances, speeds, and location. The movement of the train is then monitored and the technology will shut down or slow a train that falls outsides it’s permitted travel parameters. In the case of this recent derailment, the train would have been halted before it was able to travel into a turn at such a high speed.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) believes this PTC technology will save lives but studies show that the cost to implement are as much at $9-12 billion over the next 20 years and involves the complications of upgrading 60,000 miles of track and 20,000 locomotives with new technologies.

Richard Blumenthal is one of several New York Senators recommending that trains be equipped with audio and visual recorders to prove fatigue as a factor in collisions and catch ‘behaviour patterns’ that could be prevented in the future. While the costs of implementing this technology are said to be ‘negligible’ compared to what this recent crash will cost, it is not a technology that can prevent future tragedies, like the Bronx train derailment, from occurring.

Fatigue Science Co-Founder, Pat Byrne, has over 30 years of experience in occupational health and safety and understands the costs of these incidences quite well: “Fatigue accidents are rare but when they happen are catastrophic and, on average, cost five times the amount of non-fatigue related accidents.” he says, “With the cost of this recent New York train accident estimated to come in at hundreds of millions of dollars, the railroad industry should take another heavy look at the timing and budgeting of implementing fatigue monitoring technologies. Though, none of these technologies in question actually address the problem in identifying why the drivers are starting their shifts in a fatigued state and mitigating that in the first place.”

It is unlikely that the investigation will reveal work scheduling as a fatiguing factor, since railroads are required by federal regulation to use Fatigue Science’s FAST (Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool)  to ensure they are providing workers the opportunity to get the sleep they need. If fatigue is determined to be a factor in this accident it is more likely that the driver was not able to sleep well enough or long enough, in spite of the sleep opportunity being provided to him. These circumstances are normally due to sleep disorders and/or lifestyle issues, requiring medical intervention and sleep hygiene training as part of an organizational fatigue risk management program. Unfortunately, at this time, railroads typically do little to support workers in dealing with these severe sleep and fatigue issues – and they won’t be remedied by installing a video monitoring device in the cab of a train.

Truck News: Can a high-tech wristband measure driver fatigue and predict crashes?

Julia Kuzeljevich writes:

Managing fatigue has always been an issue in the trucking industry, all the more so as the professional driver population ages.

According to data from the 2011 National Household Survey report, the average truck driver age is actually 46 years, four years older than that of the average worker at 41.5 years.

the industry, but are they enough to determine where the problem areas can and do occur?

In terms of getting aggregate data on how tired drivers are, some companies whose employees perform shift work are testing technology such as that developed by Vancouver, B.C.’s Fatigue Science, a technology start-up that makes a wristband to measure the sleep patterns of the user and to predict levels of fatigue and alertness during their waking hours…

Read the full article

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Do you know how tired you are?

In a recent Psychology Today article, Mark Wolverton, suggests that when it comes to sleep deprivation, the gravest danger is “that we no longer realize just how tired we are”.

Mark has a point. Our own sleep and fatigue expert, Pat Byrne, often talks about the unfortunate realities of habitual sleep deprivation – pointing out that getting four to six hours of sleep a night may start to feel normal, but it doesn’t change the biological need to sleep eight. The accumulating deficit of sleep is evident in reaction and performance tests, even though participants might think they feel fine. Pat often sees professional athletes with whom he works confuse how they feel with how they perform. There is a difference.

In a society that would never consider getting behind the wheel of car after a few drinks, people are driving their cars with impaired levels of fatigue. In the US, fatigued driving is estimated to be responsible for 6,000 fatal road accidents annually. The problem is an international one – in the UK, it is estimated that 1 in every 5 road accidents is fatigue related. Southern Australia also reports  30% of fatal crashes and 15% of serious injury crashes are caused by fatigued drivers. The problem? Fatigue impairs not only our reaction time, but our “ability to judge our own level of tiredness”.

On a much less dangerous level, college and university students who stay up late to study are doing themselves an academic disservice. Multiple studies, including one from Harvard, have demonstrated that fatigue negatively affects the brain’s cortex – which is where information is stored. ‘Night owls’ and students who routinely deprive themselves of eight hours of sleep may think they are functioning well, but studies show that those who are staying up late to study or getting less than eight hours of sleep have lower GPA’s than those who sleep when and how biology dictates they should.

If you’re sitting down to tackle a thesis paper, researching for your next corporate presentation, driving home from work or heading out on a road trip, don’t think about how you’re currently feeling, think about how much sleep you’ve been getting lately. If it’s less than eight hours nightly for the last week, chances are it’s not enough to function at your most effective.

Finally, consider this: Drowsiness is actually the ‘brain’s last step before falling asleep‘, so waiting for the feeling of tiredness is both counter-productive and downright dangerous. Drinking a coffee or opening a window for fresh air may seem like a good way to battle the onset of fatigue, but research shows that if you close your laptop to get some shut eye, you’re likely to perform better and if you park your car and get some sleep, you may actually save a life.

Addressing runaway trains and public safety

In light of the Spanish railway accident that killed 79 people and injured almost 1,000 in July of this year, a recent USA Today article highlighted concerns about the implementation of safety measures on US intercity and commuter railroads. The National Transportation Safety Board investigated “15 accidents in which 50 people were killed and 942 people were injured” since 2005. Their investigation found that “rail accidents often result from crew fatigue” as well as medications and distractions. In 2008 congress passed a bill based on recommendations from the NTSB that trains be equipped with technology that would force a train to slow or stall if it were deemed to be out of control.

The deadline for implementation of this safety equipment was set for 2015, but now a proposal has been made to extend the deadline to 2020. The reason? There are concerns including “difficulties with technical aspects of the equipment, verifying it’s reliability and cost” according to the four Senators, now proposing the deadline extension.  The USA Today article referenced three of the accidents included in NTSB’s report and all three indicated ‘fatigue’ as a factor. Employee fatigue and effectiveness is something that can be addressed now – Should rail operators and passengers have to wait another 7 years for safety measures to be put in place?

Would you get in the plane with a pilot who has been awake for 22 hours?

A new BALPA poll, has revealed that nine out of 10 people are concerned about the proposed changes to flying rules that could lead to an aircraft being flown by a pilot who has been awake for 22 hours.

The changes to pilots’ rest requirements and duty times have been proposed by the EU’s European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and are aimed at regulating pilots hours across the EU.

But under these new rules, pilots could be landing passenger jets after 22 hours awake – including 11 hours flying, plus stand-by-time and travel to the airport.

The new rules could lead to pilots operating long haul flights with two (rather than three) crew members and working up to seven early starts in a row.

In the US, new regulations by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulating pilots’ flight-time/duty-time will come into effect in 2014.

The new FAA rules set a 10 hour minimum rest period prior to the flight duty period – a two hour increase over the previous rules – and also mandates that a pilot must have an opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep within the 10 hour rest period.

Is it really safety first?

With both EASA and FAA introducing new regulations in an attempt to reduce fatigue and enhance aviation safety, here at Fatigue Science we believe that until we start measuring pilots actual sleep, we will not see a reduction in fatigue related accidents.

Pat Byrne, our founder and VP says that “regulating hours will still mean that pilots can still get into the cockpit fatigued.  Ensuring that pilots have rest periods does not mean they will sleep – factors such as circadian rhythm and jet-lag all play a significant role in distributing sleep quality.”

Only by measuring pilots actual sleep with scientifically validated fatigue management technology such as our Readiband, will we be able to understand if pilots are turning up to work fatigued.

This is why fatigue is such an insidious hazard. Pilots can be mentally fatigued and be at a greatly increased accident risk, yet not even be aware that they are fatigued.

This why we believe that only until the EASA and FAA implement regulations requiring pilots sleep to be measured will we begin to see a reduction in the number of fatigue related air accidents.