Truckies wear special vests for $200k fatigue research project

Griffith University has received close to $200,000 in government funding for a research trial that involves truckies sporting special biometric vests, to monitor how fatigue impacts the way they drive.

The vests, normally used by elite athletes, monitor physical responses such as heart rate and breathing rate while driving or resting.

Researchers are hoping that the data they collect can be used to help predict and then stop fatigue-related crashes. The research team involves five senior academics, including an expert on driver fatigue.

A total of $196,524 I funding was provided by the Office of Road Safety, which is part of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications for the project.

The project’s senior research assistant, Dr Caroline Robertson, explained, “Academics from Griffith University identified a need for research exploring psychological, physiological and in-vehicle data monitoring predictors of fatigue in professional drivers. So far no one has examined these three factors in one model of fatigue but we know that they all independently play a part in drowsy driving.”

So far, drivers from Bingo Industries and Toll Group are involved in the trial, which uses Hexoskin biometric vests. Though there are just 40 drivers taking part so far, researchers are hopeful that more truckies will sign up. The goal is to get 250 drivers involved.

Drivers wear the vests for a total of six days: five days driving at work and on one day off so the team can assess how well they recover after a period of work.

“The Hexoskins are biometric shirts which allow us to measure heart rate and breathing responses. This data can give us an indication of how stressed or tired someone is,” Robertson said.

“We then overlay this data with the other data we are collecting, the psychological and in-vehicle data, to form a picture of what is happening when a driver is fatigued. In vehicle monitoring data includes things like lane positioning, distance from other vehicles and steering wheel angle.

“Once we have all this data and have undergone the analysis we will be able to inform companies of which factors contribute most to fatigue but occur prior to a safety incident occurring. In other words, we want people to be informed as to what signs to look for before they even set foot behind the wheel so that incidents are prevented.”

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