The ever-increasing number of road accidents involving trucks has led South African software design company Psi Systems, in association with Manspec, to develop the Fatigue-O-Meter to combat fatigue-related incidents.
Accidents involving trucks can incur massive costs – such as the recent whitewash of the M1 in Johannesburg – or be deeply tragic, as in the SA Roadlink case, in KwaZulu-Natal.
A research finding by Awake, published by Drive Alive, has shown that 60% of heavy vehicle accidents are the result of a lack of driver vigilance.
The Fatigue-O-Meter monitors the mental vigilance of drivers who operate heavy vehicles or do work requiring mental alertness.
Before truck drivers go on shift, they are required to take a quick one-minute test, which will establish whether the driver is fatigued or incapable of driving the vehicle at that time, after which managers will take appropriate action to restore the individual’s well- being. The test requires no literacy skills and each driver is monitored against his or her own baseline norm.
“Transport companies such as Unitrans presently assess drivers when they go on shift. However, the technology can also allow companies that have various depots located on the road towards Cape Town, for example, to check their fatigue status on the technology, which runs on a computer and is based on the Internet.
“Regular emails are sent to management with detailed reports on when last the drivers did the test, or what their test results are. Managers can also compare the truck drivers’ results,” says engineering company Efficient Engineering director John Risi, who is facilitating the client base and distribution of the new technology.
Psi Systems executive director Jan Boeyens notes that the technology is used mostly by transport companies, but can also be used at mines and factories where heavy machinery and dangerous equipment are used.
“The technology is primarily applicable to the transport industry, but we have also had a positive reaction from the local mining industry regarding this safety and risk management programme,” says codeveloper Dr Pieter van der Merwe.
Psi Systems marketing manager Charles Visser adds that the technology will be helpful on mine sites to ensure that mine truck drivers are not fatigued. “We are also thinking of introducing the technology to the mining industry to be used at the entrance of mines before workers go down the mine.”
Ongoing research over ten months at two transport facilities for the same company has yielded interesting results.
At site one, the technology was implemented, but it wasn’t used properly and drivers did not care whether they did badly in the test. At the second site, the technology was implemented and managed properly. If the drivers failed their test, they had to rest and redo it again after they had rested. Further, if they failed continuously management would reprimand them.
Site two, where the technology was properly implemented, saw an 80% decreased accident rate during the course of the trial. The site had 80 drivers and only five minor accidents occurred, as opposed to site one where 69 drivers had a total of 21 accidents between them. Not only this, but the cost of the individual accidents was on average 26% lower at site two, meaning not only fewer but less costly accidents.
Site two also reported an improvement in the drivers’ morale and reduced consumable wear and tear.
Unitrans has already implemented the technology at four of its sites and Boeyens says that the company is interested in using it at significantly more of its depots and facilities.
SA Roadlink has also agreed on purchasing the technology, but have yet to start the actual implementation.
“We are currently in discussion with a company that is experimenting with developing a unit for us that can be installed into the trucks and will work on GPRS cellphone connection. We are also investigating the possibility that this version will be able to disable the truck until the driver passes the test. The first demo is expected in June,” he concludes.