GPS not the answer to fatigue and speed: Road Tech

Data and analysis firm Road Tech warns against using GPS for electronic work diaries, questioning the technology’s accuracy

By Brad Gardner | December 13, 2010

Trucking data and analysis firm Road Tech has warned against using GPS technology to govern an electronic work diary scheme, raising concerns about the technology’s accuracy.

The UK-based Road Tech which specialises in electronically processing driving, rest and speed data, claims a satellite-based system cannot effectively monitor speed and fatigue.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) is currently receiving feedback on its proposal for the introduction of electronic work diaries as a voluntary alternative to paper reporting.

"GPS signals cannot be received in tunnels or whilst a vehicle is travelling under long underpasses and as such there would be no speed recorded when the vehicle is travelling in these environments," Road Tech General Manager Jamie Baldwin says.

"While it may be possible to calculate an average speed between the exit and entry point of the tunnel, there would be no way of knowing the actual speed of a vehicle throughout the tunnel."

Road Tech is pushing for direct monitoring of speed through an engine management or gearbox system. Baldwin says the technology will record data at all times.

"There are also problems with GPS signal strength in areas with a large number of tall buildings, particularly in narrow streets. This is a result of a restricted number of satellites being visible in the narrow area of visible sky," he says.

According to Baldwin, GPS also suffers from "bounce", whereby signals from satellites not directly overhead can be reflected from buildings. He says this causes GPS boxes to incorrectly record a vehicle’s locations, leading to cause erroneous speed calculations.

Baldwin questions how courts or enforcement officers will be able to know if the information they receive has been manipulated by the operating environment or driver tampering.

"At what point is the quality of the data deemed to be too poor to be reliable?" he asks.

"Direct communication with the engine management system or gearbox would prevent these errors."

Baldwin says governments will need to amend sanctions for driving infringements due to the second-by-second accuracy of electronic monitoring and to gain the support of truck drivers who fear being unfairly targeted under the system.

He cites the UK model as an example, which deals with infrequent or isolated events with a formal warning. Habitual offenders’ licences are suspended for a minimum of four weeks, with the suspension period increasing based on the number of offences.

"A similar policy would help with acceptance by drivers," he says.

Under the NTC’s proposal, transporters will have the option of switching to certified electronic work diaries or continuing with existing paper-based reporting to comply with fatigue management obligations.

NTC manager Dr Jeff Potter says many transport operators already use electronic monitoring but must also use paper diaries because there are currently no regulatory standards governing electronic systems.

"The proposed policy paper gives operators the flexibility to continue with the current paper-based system or use electronic work diaries while still meeting regulatory standards," he says.

Stakeholders were given until December 10 to respond to the draft policy paper.

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