World-first study tests distraction and fatigue in drivers

World-first study tests distraction and fatigue in drivers

A landmark study analysing truck driver performance behind the wheel has provided a world-first window into fatigue and distraction among truck drivers.

In a world-first study, researchers from Monash University’s Accident Research Centre (MUARC), in partnership with Seeing Machines, Ron Finemore Transport and Volvo Trucks Australia, tested fatigue prevention and driver-monitoring technology in working fleet trucks on the road, and in a new purpose-built truck simulator based at MUARC to measure truck driver performance.

The world-class Guardian technology, by Seeing Machines, actively monitors for and alerts commercial drivers to fatigue and distraction in real time. In this study, Seeing Machines’ automotive grade technology was used alongside Guardian, to study driver behaviour and the team was able to accurately detect the drivers’ level of fatigue well before a safety critical event like a microsleep occurred.

They also tested distraction monitoring in real-time – and the technology can now detect where the driver is looking, in a never done before breakthrough innovation. The team also created a comprehensive distraction warning system for drivers.

With the direct input of Ron Finemore Transport, the team fitted 10 fleet trucks with the technology and monitored drivers for nine months. Over 100 drivers enrolled in the study, collectively driving 22,000 trips across over 1.5 million kilometres, resulting in the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind in the world.

Using Australia’s first Truck Simulator, Monash researchers conducted tests on 74 truck drivers under different conditions, using Big Data to fine-tune the technology that will be rolled out in future vehicles. The drivers were sleep deprived and then intentionally distracted during driver simulation for two-hours. Researchers recorded 29 crashes in the simulator, with 21 (72%) in fatigue condition and eight (28%) of the crashes while drivers were alert. Drivers were twice as likely to crash when fatigued, but 11 times more likely to crash when fatigued and distracted at the same time.

The study provided a unique test-bed for the evolving sophistication of the sensor technology that aims to reduce heavy vehicle crashes in Australia, improve truck driver well-being and help truck companies better manage their drivers’ fatigue.

The technology system consists of small cameras and connected sensors installed in the vehicle. It is so sensitive, it can detect the eyes blinking, head position, and where the driver is looking.

An alarm signals driver fatigue or distraction and the driver seat vibrates rapidly. An alert is also sent by satellite immediately to the Seeing Machines 24/7 monitoring centre, accessible by the truck company in real time, so they can contact the driver and initiate a fatigue management plan.

The $6.5m Advanced Safe Truck Concept (ASTC), a Co-operative Research Centre Project, was funded by the Australian Government in partnership with Canberra-based driver monitoring technology company Seeing Machines, the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC), Ron Finemore Transport Services and Volvo Trucks Australia.

The Hon Scott Buchholz, Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight, today visited MUARC at the University’s Clayton campus to announce the findings.

“The Australian Government is proud to have funded this study through the Cooperative Research Centre Project, Mr Buchholz said.

“The Advanced Safe Truck Concept represents the largest and most comprehensive study into driver behaviour using naturalistic (real-life) driving. Our government is proud to support initiatives like this project that allows industry, academia and government to work to not only explore best technologies available but also make a real contribution to road safety.”


“It’s the first time this type of technology has been tested in a fleet of trucks going about their normal business operations – and because of this, drowsiness and distraction can be detected earlier and with incredibly high accuracy,” Associate Professor Fitzharris said.

“Driver Monitoring Systems of this type and sophistication will have significant road safety benefits, not just for trucks but for future passenger vehicles.” Associate Professor Fitzharris said.

“With driver distraction and drowsiness known to be key contributors to road fatalities and injuries globally, this research will enable the implementation of highly advanced and sophisticated driver monitoring technology that will play a key role in reducing the number of people killed and injured on our roads in the future. This is not just for trucks, but all passenger vehicles. This will improve the safety of all road users, including pedestrians and cyclists.”

Associate Professor Fitzharris said the research would allow a re-think of current best practice in managing driver fatigue and distraction levels for commercial drivers, and has major implications for policy.

“This research will enable the implementation of highly advanced and sophisticated driver monitoring technology that will play a key role in reducing the number of people killed and injured on our roads in the future,” he said.

“Our research at MUARC played a role in seeing the introduction of frontal and head protecting side air bags in all new vehicles, as well as Electronic Stability Control. I hope that history can repeat itself with this technology included in all new vehicles here in Australia, and around the world.”

“Advances in the technology made possible by this research means the driver can be alerted to fatigue and distraction much earlier, and then take immediate steps to avoid a safety critical event like the vehicle leaving the lane and being involved in a crash. Through satellite the driver’s truck company is also alerted and can start communicating directly with the driver to minimise harm.”

Dr Lenné, said the project gives Australia a competitive advantage to position the technology globally.

“The project has resulted in the pioneering of advanced technology that positions Australia as a leader in driver monitoring technology innovation.

“It will allow Australia to influence the global approach to the regulation of professional driving and improve heavy vehicle safety.

“This is a great example of industry working together, with the support of our government, to enhance safety with a proven policy approach and see it put into practice.”

“Ron Finemore Transport is extremely proud to have been part of a project that addresses a critical need to develop validated solutions to better manage truck driver behavior and safety.

“This technology is central to Ron Finemore’s approach to safety. The company places the highest priority on safety and this technology gives us the tools to ensure our drivers are operating safely and efficiently. By allowing researchers to work with our truck drivers directly, they now have a detailed understanding of their tasks, needs, and driving environments.

“We see this approach as the future for regulating fleet safety across the board. To meet the needs of communities by ensuring that daily necessities such as food and fuel are available when needed our fleet operates across a 24-hour, 7 day a week operation. Keeping our drivers safe and being able to detect fatigue and distraction prior to an incident or accident will help keep our drivers and other road users safe. This will support our company’s proactive approach to driver safety and wellbeing – which is at the centre of our business from culture to operations.”

“Road trauma is an enormous social harm that needs to be addressed urgently. This need was reinforced last month at the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Sweden,” Professor Charlton said.

“Addressing key risk factors such as distraction and fatigue will be critical in reducing the number of people killed and injured on our roads. In-vehicle technology will play a key role in achieving this.

“This project is an example of MUARCs commitment to working hand-in-hand with industry to solve real-world problems. MUARC has a proud history of supporting policy-makers with sound advice based on world-leading research. The ASTC program continues this tradition.”

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