We tend to envisage truck drivers as endurance warriors, however, the reality is that they are subject to greater safety and health risks than any other occupation, but what can we do about Improving safety for our heavy vehicle drivers?
When you delve a little deeper into the statistics it’s quite confronting. During the 12 months to the end of September 2019, there were 206 fatalities from 185 incidents involving trucks and buses. Even more alarming is that road and rail drivers accounted for 24 per cent of all worker fatalities in 2018, making it the occupation most at risk of fatality.
It’s statistics like these which have spurred Safe Work Australia to put the transport, freight and logistics sector under the microscope with the aim to reduce injuries and deaths over the next three years.
There are several root causes as to why truck drivers are so susceptible to accidents; fatigue caused by shift work, driving vast distances under pressure, lack of truck stops, patterns of casual employment and pressure from the host organisation to deliver on time are just some of the factors attributing to these accidents.
Technology to improve safety
According to the 2019 Telematics Benchmark Report by Teletrac Navman, these issues are recognised as the chief compliance concern among trucking and fleet companies.
Fortunately, new technology, namely telematics, is helping reduce the likelihood of accidents by reducing some of the common causes including reducing speed and driver fatigue.
Telematics can best be described as a highly intelligent computer embedded in your truck that is reporting on every little detail – from idling and speed, drive times, excessive braking and more. All this information is gold to trucking fleets who are now reaping the benefits and not only improving the safety of their drivers but reducing operational costs.
The use of telematics among trucking fleets, in the Navman survey, increased by 13 per cent in 2018 and the integration of technologies and systems was the top investment area needed to improve driver safety. The areas of most interest to these organisations were vehicle tracking, speed, hours of service and distance driven.
Driver behaviour monitoring
Hummingbird Electronics – based in Williamtown, NSW – is a company dedicated to developing innovative products that improve safety and efficiency for their operators. The trucking, fleet and transport sector are reaping the benefits from their products, which are being used to reduce accidents and protect operators to great effect.
Hummingbird also specialises in designing and manufacturing products for specific individual customer needs. Where it can be established that there is a market for a new product, it is designed and manufactured in Australia, using in-house and outsourced resources.
An example of this tailored innovation is a collaboration between Hummingbird and Navman Wireless who worked together to introduce a driver behaviour monitor module to an existing Navman product.
The Hummingbird configurable force monitor had been traditionally used to highlight harsh braking, accident and rollover. With development work between Hummingbird and Navman Wireless, they were able to add additional functionality in the form of harsh acceleration and cornering which when combined, create a product that ultimately promotes safe driving.
Audio Warning System
Another innovative product which was devised following an incident on the Sydney Harbour Bridge is the Audio Alert System.
In this example, a bus driver was stuck in peak-hour traffic and was suddenly faced with a range of flashing lights and buzzers on his dashboard. Oblivious to their meaning, the driver ignored them. As smoke filled the bus it became clear that the bus was on fire. Fortunately, all the passengers and drivers escaped unharmed.
The result had the potential to be disastrous and led to the development of Hummingbird’s Audio Alert System, which presents clear verbal messages that improve on the incumbent warning lights and alarms as highlighted in the bus incident.
These messages can be tailored to an endless amount of options and could include warning messages such as ‘have you done your pre-start check?’, ‘please fasten seatbelt’, ‘apply handbrake’ and ‘dangerous speed limit exceeded’.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Despite the risks associated with truck and vehicle driving there is light at the end of the tunnel. The combination of new, exciting technology and a focus on safety by Safe Work Australia suggest the freight and logistics sector is entering an era of positive transformation.
Companies such as Hummingbird and Teletrac Navman are at the forefront of developing these technologies which are not only limited to the trucking sector but other industries such as agriculture, mining, civil and equipment hire.