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Safety expert Siphiwe Baleka says monitoring fatigue can help end trucking’s health crisis


As a world-class swimmer, US-record holder Siphiwe Baleka knows how important sleep is to human performance. As a transportation expert, however, this Yale University graduate also knows that sleep is often an afterthought for drivers rushing to meet the demanding deadlines of the trucking industry. While the consequences associated with those demands are proving to be far more costly and tragic than winning or losing a swim race, Baleka thinks the road to more successful outcomes is similar.

“Every driver, if they are being honest, is going to tell you that on a daily or nightly basis, they are going to fight fatigue,” says Baleka, “When you are serious about it and you legitimately want to make safer highways, genuinely and credibly, you have to talk about sleep first.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year in the United States. This results in approximately 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.

 

Safety expert Siphiwe Baleka says monitoring fatigue can help end trucking’s health crisis

Drivers’ life expectancy is a shocking 15 years lower than the national average, according to Baleka. As such, he’s spent the better part of the last four years looking for ways to usher in change to the trucking industry, specifically the health and safety of drivers. At the root of that poor health, says Baleka, is fatigue.

“For me if I want to solve a problem I want to get to the root of the problem,” says Baleka, now the owner of Fitness Trucking and Driver Health and Fitness Coach at Prime Inc., a Missouri trucking company with 6,700 drivers. “So what’s happening to drivers is, they’re living in a box, they’re sedentary, their sleep is interrupted, which is impacting their circadian rhythms, which is impacting hormone production. So what they experience is an energy deficit, or fatigue.”

Fatigue causes more accidents than drugs and alcohol combined. Research reveals that going 21 hours without sleep is equivalent to a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level of .08, above the legal limit for safe driving. Yet measuring fatigue is not even on the radar for many driver health and safety programs, something that needs to change, according to Baleka.

 

s Baleka started to experience a surprising decline in his own physical health, a light bulb went on: What if he applied the techniques he’d used as a high performance swimmer to truck driving?

Siphiwe Baleka is a US-Masters Swimming Champion and a US-record holder in the 50M freestyle.

As Baleka started to experience a surprising decline in his own physical health, a light bulb went on: What if he applied the techniques he’d used as a high performance swimmer to truck driving? Companies measure and monitor tire pressure, fuel consumption etc., and often keep rankings, displaying which drivers are doing the best job of what. Baleka says his competitive spirit always drove him to try to be at the top of the chart no matter what was being measured both in the pool and at work. Eventually he determined that a crossover with his background in high-performance sport offered very real opportunities for solving driver health and safety issues. Most importantly, it could help ensure long-haul truck drivers get where they needed to go, safely.

“I started to treat driving as an athletic performance, trying to figure out how I become a better driver,” says Baleka. “How can I be more elite? Just like I wanted to be the best swimmer or best athlete, I wanted to figure out how I could be the best driver. And I started trying all of these things to try and improve my health in this unique environment of long haul truck driving.”

 

Safety expert Siphiwe Baleka says monitoring fatigue can help end trucking’s health crisis

Siphiwe Baleka featured in Sports Illustrated.

 

While diving in deeper and deeper into his search for solutions to the health issues facing the trucking industry, Baleka tested every fitness program and product he could get his hands on, including a flood of new wearable tracking devices. From that deep dive he developed what would eventually become an award-winning health program designed specifically for truckers. A big part of the solution, he discovered, lays with effectively monitoring fatigue.

“We have real time data on the truck, what it’s doing, it’s brakes, fuel economy etc. We have real-time data on the trailer. The only thing we didn’t have real-time data on is on the driver, which is the most important part of the equation! So I was trying to find a way to combine all of these devices and measure fatigue. That was my Holy Grail because that’s the major factor in so many accidents. You want safer highways you want to do something about driver fatigue.”

While he tested the value of every type of technology he could find, Baleka found that many of the devices were hard to use, didn’t stand up under pressure, or didn’t offer credible data and practical solutions to real issues. This was particularly true when looking for accurate measurement of sleep and fatigue. That is, until he found his Holy Grail.

“I was thinking how amazing it would be if you could have something that could tell you your status for driving based on fatigue, not only so the driver could intervene on themselves but also in a way that could impact the entire industry.”

“For me, as a driver but also as an athlete that wants to perform, the Fatigue Science Readiband can be used in both. There are lots of devices out there that do sleep metrics, but the Readiband is more expansive, more in depth.”

By becoming aware of detailed elements of his sleep, including wake episodes, sleep latency, sleep efficiency and a real time mental effectiveness score, Baleka was motivated to perform better. In short order he went from averaging about 6 hours and 15 mins of sleep a night to about 7 hours and 20 mins of sleep a night.

“I was getting this extra hour and I was feeling better. As an athlete I am swimming faster and performing better. But as a driver, I am feeling less fatigued, I am getting through the shift not having to fight sleep as much.”

 

Risk Management | Fatigue Science

Fatigue Science allows fleet managers to see fatigue dangers across the entire workforce. Learn more about monitoring fatigue and reducing safety risks.

 

Baleka says that by monitoring fatigue, everybody in the industry, from carriers, to shippers and receivers, to drivers, stands to benefit. With healthy drivers, there are less accidents, with less accidents more freight is delivered, safety records go up and insurance costs down.

“We have this technology that can actually predict when you are going to be at high risk for an accident and as a driver you can intervene. But I see that there are ways that the whole industry can use a device like this as a game-changer and we can revolutionize the entire industry.”

“I don’t know who said it first, but if you can measure it, you can improve it,” says Baleka. “So let’s start measuring fatigue in real time so we can improve it.”

Learn more about measuring fatigue and improving driver health and safety.

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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Why the answer to reducing truck driver fatigue is with evidence based data

 

On July 1, 2013 the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) new federal regulations designed to reduce truck driver fatigue took effect. The new federal regulations see an 11-hour limit on truckers’ driving day and a 34-hour rest period each week that would require drivers to be off two consecutive nights.

Driver fatigue is a serious problem in North America, with studies showing that 30 percent of fatal commercial truck crashes are fatigue related.

The DOT estimates that the rule will help prevent 1,400 truck crashes, 560 injuries and 19 deaths per year, while affecting only the less than 15 percent of truckers who drive the most hours.

In a profession that has more on-the-job deaths than any other in the U.S., why does the transportation industry still not get it?

Instead of being worried about reducing driver fatigue from our roads, it seems as though the transportation industry is more worried about loss of productivity and a loss of money.

Earlier this month, the American Trucking Association appealed the regulations arguing that longer rest breaks and reworked freight networks may reduce productivity by 3 percent, translating into $18 billion in additional costs. The appeal was quickly dismissed.

But it’s not just the association with this view in mind, in an interview with commercial truck drivers, Ben Kamisar found that in situations where shipping delays create unexpected downtime, this can potentially force them into restarts they’d rather not take so they flip their shifts to avoid that scenario. Because for truck drivers “when the wheels aren’t turning, you aren’t earning”.

The only way to reduce driver fatigue is to use evidence based technology to optimize alertness

The assumptions behind U.S. Department of Transportation’s new regulations are that the longer drivers are behind the wheel the greater their risk of having an accident and by giving drivers more time off they will get more rest. However, with drivers finding it acceptable to switch shifts to meet the demands of shipping, we are still going to be a long way from reducing driver fatigue from our roads.

People can be mentally fatigued and be at a greatly increased accident risk, yet not even feel fatigued.  Therefore, drivers will not realize they are fatigued until it is too late. This is why fatigue is such an insidious hazard.

New research published in 2013 by the Australian National Truck Accident Research Centre (ANTARC) studied all 461 truck accidents from 2011 in Australia and concluded that 68% of all fatigue related incidents occurred within 250 km and 85% of the fatigue related incidents occurred within 500 km of the beginning of their journey, not the end. ANTARC’s conclusion was that drivers were not getting the sleep they needed on their off days and came to work fatigued and unfit for duty.

Further, a study by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)  found that the very nature of 24-hr operational environments superimposed against human circadian physiology all but guarantees the systematic production of fatigue. As such, valid and reliable methods of predicting compromised performance capacity could be valuable as a means of preventing and mitigating fatigue-induced safety risks in applied settings.

Just like the transportation industry can track the amount of hours and miles a driver does, by using our  validated fatigue management solutions (Readiband and FAST) the industry could roster drivers to ensure they’re getting enough rest in-between shifts and be able to track the actual sleep of drivers get to ensure they are not getting behind the wheel fatigued.

Scientifically validated fatigue management solutions for the transportation industry

Our scientifically validated technology has provided companies in the transport industry with the data to understand how fatigue may be affecting the safety of their on-the-road employees and helping transportation agencies make decisions based on objective data.

By using Readiband and FAST the transportation industry can:

  • Give drivers the opportunity to visualize their real-time effectiveness scores directly on the Readiband
  • Collect sleep data from drivers using the Readiband
  • Easily visualize and quantify drivers and areas of increased fatigue risk with online reports from the Readiband data
  • Create rosters that optimize employee alertness using FAST
  • Identify specific rosters that will contribute to high levels of fatigue using FAST

Our technology enabled Australian transport company, Queensland Rail, to reduce fatigue risk by 39%

Queensland Rail used Readiband to assess employee fatigue levels and determine times of increased accident risk in train control centres. As a result of the strategies implemented from the Readiband findings, one train control centre increased employee sleep by a full hour, which translated to a 39% reduction in fatigue risk.

New research shows that limiting drivers hours won’t reduce driver fatigue

The new regulations

On July 1, 2013 new regulations for the North American trucking industry were introduced to reduce the problem of truck driver fatigue by limiting the work week to 70 hours from 82 hours, requiring longer rest periods after reaching the 70 hour maximum work period.

The assumptions behind these regulations are that the longer drivers are behind the wheel the greater their risk of having an accident and by giving drivers more time off they will get more rest.

Limiting drivers hours will not work to reduce driver fatigue

New research published in 2013 by the Australian National Truck Accident Research Centre (ANTARC) says neither assumption is correct.

ANTARC studied all 461 truck accidents from 2011 in Australia and concluded that 68% of all fatigue related incidents occurred within 250 km and 85% of the fatigue related incidents occurred within 500 km of the beginning of their journey, not the end.

ANTARC’s conclusion was that drivers were not getting the sleep they needed on their off days and came to work fatigued and unfit for duty.

Download a copy of the report

The answer to driver fatigue is scientifically validated data

Here at Fatigue Science we’re not surprised. Our Readibands have been used to examine the actual sleep and fatigue of workers in the trucking industry and many other industries globally for 4 years. During that time we have found that it’s common for truck drivers and workers from other industries to come to work tired – just take a look at our previous post on the recent incident at Vancouver International Airport with a fatigued worker.

In order to tackle the real fatigue problem in the trucking industry more assistance needs to be provided to drivers by tracking their actual sleep and fatigue at home and on the road.  Providing drivers with the scientifically valid data to educate and assist them to get the sleep they need to stay safe. Our Readiband technology can provide your drivers with real-time scientifically validated data to help reduce driver fatigue.

New regulations in the US designed to reduce truck driver fatigue

On July 1, 2013 the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) new federal regulations designed to reduce truck driver fatigue took effect. Trucking companies were given 18 months to adopt the new rules which now see:

  • The maximum average work week for truck drivers to limited to 70 hours, a decrease from the current maximum of 82 hours
  • Truck drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week can only resume driving if they rest for 34 consecutive hours.  This includes at least two nights spent sleeping from 1-5 a.m.
  • Truck drivers are required to take a minimum 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.

The final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day.

Although these regulations are only applicable in the US, on Wednesday the North American Fatigue Management program was launched. This initiative is backed by Transport Canada,  the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Alberta Transportation. The program aims to help organizations develop a corporate culture aimed at reducing driver fatigue by providnig companies with a series of training manuals.

Driver fatigue is a serious problem in North America, with studies showing that 30 percent of fatal commercial truck crashes are fatigue related.

How our fatigue risk management solutions can help

For many transport companies, mitigating fatigue for drivers can be hard. Although training manuals can be an effective way to help drivers understand why it is important to manage fatigue, our Readiabnd technology allows drivers to see their real-time effectiveness scores directly on the band as well as providing them with sleep reports that show how their actual sleep is affecting their fatigue levels by day and by hour.

Readiband is the easiest way for organizations to measure fatigue and understand concrete strategies to decrease fatigue-related on-the-road accidents, reduce insurance premiums and improve overall safety performance.

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