For the road transport industry, safety is our number one priority. The road is our workplace and it literally has many moving parts to manage. But, where to start?
As the peak industry association in Queensland for road freight operators, the Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) is proactive in looking for new and innovative ways to keep drivers safe on the roads.
QTA Ltd Chief Executive Officer Gary Mahon said that a core part of its role is supporting their members in developing and maintaining safe workplaces and work practices.
“Our members include owner drivers through to major transport and logistics companies, and we see a critical part of our role is to look at new and emerging approaches to safety,” said Mahon.
“We are currently managing a number of safety, training and technology projects, giving transport operators an opportunity to experience new ways of working.”
The QTA’s initiative currently underway is the Heavy Vehicle Safety Around Ports Project.
Commencing in August 2018, the QTA received more than $300,000 from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator through the 2018-19 round of the Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative program.
The grant funding was to deliver the two-year Heavy Vehicle Safety Around Ports Project in partnership with the Port of Brisbane.
The project completed the initial 12-month pilot in February 2020. This included the implementation of two initiatives – focusing on people and place.
The project aims to look at how people-based health initiatives encourage safer driver behaviour, as well as trialling wearable technology in the workplace.
The People Factor
There are a number of components that make up a person’s health and wellbeing, leading the project to include a variety of targeted initiatives. The project has delivered more than 970 free health and wellbeing initiatives to the road transport industry, based in and around the Port of Brisbane precinct, including:
• skin checks
• flu vaccinations
• heart and health assessments
• seated massage
• financial health
The importance of having a healthy and well workforce in relation to safety was clearly demonstrated when some participants were immediately referred for additional follow-up with a doctor, highlighting the significance of having these preventative measures in place for ongoing employee health.
The feedback from the health and wellbeing initiatives was overwhelmingly positive, with participant comments including:
“Making it accessible for our employees at work site worked really well.“
“Great Initiative – Very pleased to be a part of the program.”
“It was an excellent initiative and we were really glad to be a part of it. Thank you.”
These anecdotal comments demonstrated that, while the workforce may desire to improve their health and wellbeing, accessibility can be a key issue.
For 59% of the participants receiving skin checks, this was their first time being assessed.
The results also captured the importance of taking visible action. These small measures generated interest and ongoing conversation about safety relating to personal health and wellbeing.
“Aside from personal feedback there has been much more general discussion about health which is a good thing.”
The Place Factor
The place factor looked at how emerging technologies can be used in the workplace; for our industry, this is in and around heavy vehicles. A range of wearable technologies were reviewed and SmartCap was selected as the most suitable option for the pilot phase of the project, being portable and because of its early intervention fatigue alarms.
‘SmartCap’ is a wearable technology that measures driver alertness. It’s a headband mounted into a cap, making it portable regardless of whether the transport operator is inside or outside the vehicle. The headband measures changes in a person’s electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures electrical activity in the brain, and provides accurate measurements of alertness in real time to operators and drivers.
In total, 75 transport operators from across seven companies participated in the pilot. Across more than 18,000 driving hours, the project’s key findings were:
• 96% of operators using SmartCap technology were able to self-manage their fatigue as a result of the early warning system, the common interventions including eating an apple or shifting posture
• More than 80% of the alarms occurred from less than 10% of the drivers, identifying possible lifestyle or underlying health factors
• Fatigue alarm rates increased by 565% when in a queue, supporting the need for more research on how to reduce the impact of queueing on driver alertness
• Zero safety incidents recorded for the duration of the project.
Following the completion of the pilot, a number of operators opted to continue using the technology. There were also some operators who believed using the technology during the driver on boarding process would be beneficial.
The pilot of the technology was also a mechanism to increase awareness and education about fatigue, specifically that for every ‘eyes closed’ microsleep there is an invisible ‘eyes open’ microsleep beforehand. The SmartCap technology has early fatigue warnings that are activated before either of these events occur.
Where to next?
The next phase of the project focuses on sharing the project outcomes with other ports across Australia. Due to current travel restrictions, the majority of the workshops will be delivered in early 2021.
There will also be a range of material published outlining practical steps on how to set up these initiatives in your workplace.
Sign up at qta.com.au/event-4041679 for the free kit.
If you would like to know more about other QTA projects and how you can get involved, visit qta.com.au/Projects.