‘Fatigue can be a killer’ announces TRL’s excellent recent piece on tiredness amongst bus and coach drivers. In terms of identifying causes of fatigue in PSV drivers, and the need for operational change to mitigate this problem, the piece makes many valid points. However, when it comes to the role of technology in managing and monitoring driver behaviours and giving us the keys to solving these endemic issues, it does not go nearly far enough.
“In-vehicle telematics offers a way to monitor changes in driver behaviour. Data on harsh braking, harsh accelerations and lane deviations are collected as standard with telematics. This data could be monitored to check whether there is any relation to hours worked, the number of rest days worked and amount of overtime.” So says the author, Chris Peat, in conclusion of his article.
But the truth is we will never find the answers the bus industry requires by looking at the exceptional events data recorded by telematics. Why? Because telematics data, alone, lacks context. And when it comes to managing work-related road risk, context is everything. Think about it: a coach is doing 50mph. If you know it is on an A-road, no problem. If it’s on a High Street, it’s likely to kill someone. Context rules.
‘Ah, but we have GPS data,’ you say, ‘so we can tell.’ OK, how about this: Your driver slams on the brakes. He/she says a child cyclist careered off the pavement in front of him. Is he/she a hero – or was he/she sending a text message at the time and realised too late that a child was veering into his path?
Context matters. The telematics data will show you a harsh braking event. It will not show you the child, what he/she did, or whether your driver was paying attention and took appropriate action.
We see the distinction as being between triggers – the event or incident which causes technology to save, record or alert – and the observation. The observation is where one of our trained risk analysts watches the footage, set against location, speed and other event data, and assesses the driver’s behaviour in the context of the situation and against a benchmark of established risk.
Only when we have an observation can we identify a cause. And only when you know the cause can you manage, mitigate and ultimately prevent such incidents from occurring at all.
The SmartDrive® video-based safety programme is in many thousands of PSV vehicles across the world and we not only provide insights to our individual clients about the incidence of fatigue amongst their workforce, but can establish correlations between these incidents and operational practices, routes, times of day and individual driver risk profiles.
Bus and coach drivers not only face the fatigue-inducing disruption to their circadian rhythms of other shift workers, but they also suffer from working pattern fatigue, the sensory and mental overload of having to concentrate in congested urban environments, and the grinding frustration of often moving slowly in traffic. Many of the bus and coach companies that use the SmartDrive video-based safety programme have been shocked at the high incidence of fatigue among their drivers – and its contribution to rear-end shunts, minor scrapes and, sometimes, more serious collisions.
One client recently had a driver who had three minor collisions over a couple of weeks. He and his managers were perplexed. When the SmartDrive system was installed, our analysts observed that he was suffering micro sleeps, head nodding, eyes closed, of which he had no memory. With this knowledge, his managers asked after his health and lifestyle, and finally learned that he had started studying late at night to finish his PhD. The videos helped to identify the problem, and help him to fix it by correcting his work-life balance.
The truth is you cannot manage what you cannot see. And telematics will never tell you why an incident occurred – only that it did. For true insight – and to make a meaningful difference in identifying and preventing driver fatigue – you need video. You need to see it for yourself.
- Posted by Abbie Clark
- On July 31, 2018