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Safety and Compliance

Using your fatigue monitoring data

You’ve installed fatigue monitoring devices throughout your fleet. You’re getting a constant flow of data recording inattentions, microsleeps and more. 

What next?

The best thing to do, says Marty Corry, NTI’s Transport Risk Engineer, is …not much. Not right away, because you need to get a handle on what the data is telling you.

“When you get the data, it’s mind-blowing because you’ve never had it before. Now all of a sudden, you’re getting distraction events, you’re getting misuse events, you’re getting microsleeps … all this kind of stuff. 

“You’ve got to stop first and make sure you understand all the data. Discuss it as a whole with your driving group, Health, Safety and Environment, and HR so everyone’s on board and you know what you’re looking for.” 

Adam Gibson, NTI’s Logistics and Transport Risk Engineer, agrees. “You have to apply some critical thinking to the alerts you’re getting,” he says. “Microsleeps are microsleeps, and you need to act on those right away.”

“But you really need to get a couple of weeks or even months of data before you can see the bigger picture. Then you can share it with operations, drivers, risk and everyone else.”

With that ‘bigger picture’ in view, you can start to look at using the data to help improve routes and schedules, driver training and risk management.

Deployment is everything

Before you get to that stage, you have to roll out your fatigue monitoring system and embed it in your operations. Yet all too often, safety technologies are deployed poorly, leading to low take-up and drivers circumventing the system or even leaving the business.

Marty says that if drivers turn up on Monday morning and find new fatigue monitoring devices installed in their cabs, and on Tuesday morning they start getting non-compliance notices in their pigeon holes, then you’re headed for trouble.

“Deployment all comes down to the skills of the manager,” Marty says. “It needs to be discussing and explaining, not announcing and telling.”

“Say, ‘hey guys, we’ve got this new technology, I want your feedback, I want you to be involved’.

“Ninety-five per cent of the problems in deployment come from the communication and how  you explain what you’re doing.”

Adam says that non-compliances can be almost as revealing as the fatigue data itself:

“Circumvention alerts, like ‘camera misaligned’ and ‘sensor obscured’, tell you more about your business than the real alerts do … they tell you if you’ve stuffed up your implementation.

“You can’t bully, cajole or punish to address circumvention because the drivers will push back. Then you’ll stop getting the alerts because they’ll be working somewhere else.”

Work cooperatively with your team. If they understand why you’re implementing the technology, what data it will gather and how it will be used, you’ll be on much firmer ground.

Get aligned – and understand the data

Adam says operations managers must apply critical thinking to the alerts they’re getting. 

“If a manager sends an email or goes and yells at a driver and says ‘one more alert and you’ll have to answer to compliance’ then they’re taking the wrong approach.

“They should be saying ‘G’day Bill, we see you’ve had another microsleep. Do you want to come and see the video? Why do you think these are happening? Are you sleeping okay? I’m worried about your quality of sleep, can we refer you to a sleep expert? Is there something else going on?’ ”

The key is to think about the data and what it might mean before deciding how to approach your drivers. If you keep on getting distraction alerts on a long, sweeping bend, it could be that your drivers know the road well and are taking the opportunity to look back and check their trailer.

In that case, you might want to geo-fence that area and ignore those alerts. Or check with the drivers to see why the systems are going off.

A tool for improvement, not punishment

It’s also helpful to consider how you share the data with your drivers. “In my experience of rolling systems out,” Marty says, “using the data as a performance management or driving improvement tool is just as valuable as the fatigue data itself.”

Drivers don’t always know where they might be performing strongly or poorly. Sharing data with them – positively and constructively – can be a powerful tool to drive improvement.

“When you can show them their driving data and say ‘Your alerts are up here, our best driver’s down there’, they usually say ‘I had no idea’. 

“If they see the data you’re getting, it builds a level of trust that you’re not using it to punish or control them. If you can use the data to improve their performance and get them home … at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all for.”

‘Tune and calibrate’, not ‘set and forget’

Adam echoes the point: “It’s not ‘set and forget’. It will take some time to tune and calibrate, and you want to review settings over time.”

“For example, if you get to a point where your drivers never have any distraction events, you might want to tighten that up by half a second – it’s basically a time threshold, how long the camera has to take as you’re looking away.”

It’s also helpful to check the alerts you’re getting and adjust routes or schedules as needed.

If you’re getting a lot of distraction events as drivers re-enter mobile phone reception areas, then you should schedule a 15- or 20-minute break. They can pull over, check in with their families and then resume travelling safely.

“You know where the coverage is; you know where the driving bays are, just schedule a break at a rest area,” Adam says. “Otherwise, you might be looking at a crash because they’re trying to get in touch with their loved ones.”

The key is to trust your drivers and treat them as partners. There’s no doubt that deploying fatigue management systems can significantly improve your business. 

Most importantly, it can significantly improve driver and road user safety. So plan ahead, think carefully about how you use and communicate the information, and keep refining your approach.

Then you’ll be able to enjoy the full benefits your fatigue management systems can bring. 

  1. This article has been developed as part of NTI’s The Business of Safety series with the aim of helping transport and logistics businesses become safer and more sustainable. The Business of Safety is funded by the NHVR’s Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative, supported by the Australian Government. Information in this document is a guide only. It does not take into account your personal or business circumstances. Whilst all due care has been taken, you must not rely on the information as an alternative to legal, legislated regulatory and compliance requirements associated with your business activities.   NTI.M002.4.15072021

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