Toll claims fatigue technology success

By: Steve Skinner


Toll says its trials of cameras pointed at drivers which can activate fatigue alarms are getting good results

Toll claims fatigue technology success
Watching the driver for micro sleeps: a 'Seeing Machines' camera on the dash of a Toll Resources Western Star.

 

Transport giant Toll is claiming success in a trial of an innovative camera-based system which alerts drivers if they are at risk of falling asleep.

The trial involved the Toll Resources and Government Logistics (TRGL) division, which carts a lot of dangerous goods. The system is based on the Australian Seeing Machines technology.

"The alert can be jarring and unpleasant for drivers," Toll says in a recent journal article of the buzzing and seat vibration involved.

"Of course, in genuine fatigue events this produces the intended result: it shocks the driver into a state of wakefulness.

"The TRGL compliance manager has viewed footage of a driver awakened by the system mere seconds before the vehicle was about to drive off a cliff.

"It is his subjective assessment, therefore, that the system saves lives."

The seeing machines capture eyelid and head motion through sensitive cameras mounted at eye level in the vehicle.

The system detects what might be a ‘fatigue event’, defined as an eye closure of 1.5 seconds or more.

Warts and all

Trouble is, there are false positives which can be caused by things such as looking to the side for longer than 1.5 seconds, and the system getting confused by glare from spectacles and high-vis vests.

Toll admits that alerts going off unnecessarily for such reasons can have a bad effect on the person behind the wheel.

"When the system is engaged because of false positives it can promote anxiety in drivers; a state best described as being ‘on edge’," the company says.

"On occasion, drivers have been reduced to tears by the stress and discomfort caused by the alerts.

"The emotional and psychological impact of the alerts is under-researched and, at this point, poorly understood."

Nevertheless, Toll says the system has improved greatly since the early days of a trial during 12-hour shifts at the German Creek coal mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin. There are now almost 200 vehicles hooked up to it.

Video footage of alert incidents is relayed to a central monitoring team to weed out false positives, and once the seriousness is decided, site supervisors are contacted.

Actions can then range from a chat about how the driver is going, to a rest break, to standing down from a shift altogether.

With the temptation being to keep production going, decisions on first or second incidents in a shift are made by the compliance manager, not the site manager.

But after three strikes, you’re definitely out.

Western -Star ,-Seeing -Machines ,-fatigue ,-Toll ,-ATN2

 

Driven by rollovers

The findings of the Toll Resources fatigue alert program are one of three articles by Toll in the latest Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety.

The articles were written by Toll’s group manager for compliance, Dr Sarah Jones, and senior division managers.

Toll says the use of the driver fatigue sensing technology was prompted by a couple of accidents.

"In 2011, TRGL’s mining services business faced a serious dilemma," the company concedes.

"One of its contracts was at risk because of two vehicle rollovers in quick succession. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the rollovers, but the risk was unacceptable.

"Fatigue was suspected in both cases and TRGL set about investigating how or if technology might assist in managing the risk."

There haven’t been any rollovers since the trucks were fitted with the technology, but Toll says it’s hard to separate out the role of other factors such as electronic stability control in vehicles and most significantly, education.

This includes advice on diet, exercise, sleep, rollover risks and not being afraid to stick your hand up if you think you are too tired to do a shift safely or are having personal or health problems which are affecting sleep.

 

Check out the full feature in an upcoming issue of ATN.

 

 

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