A driver nearly falling asleep at the wheel is a scary thought; fatigued drivers are noted to have response times just as bad as drunk drivers.
The idea gets even scarier when you imagine the driver being in a vehicle that weighs about 80,000 pounds.
Thankfully, technology that can alert a semi-truck driver when they may be getting drowsy is improving with advances in biometric sensors and reporting software, leading to safer roads for all drivers.
The dangers of drowsy truck drivers
You likely feel nervous driving around semi trucks – with good reason. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, fatalities in crashes involving large trucks continue to rise. They saw a 4% increase from 4,678 in 2016 to 4,905 in 2017, with another slight increase to 4,951 in 2018.
Drowsiness in truck drivers is a problem acknowledged even by those in the industry.
Fatigue alert technology options growing
Several different technologies have become available that could help truck drivers realize when they need to take measures to stay alert.
Among products now on the market are:
- Glasses that monitor the driver’s eye-blinking at a rate of 500 times a second, sounding an alarm when measurements indicate fatigue.
- A headset that can tell which way the driver is looking, can detect head bobs and jerks, and keeps track of how often a driver checks mirrors, since fewer mirror checks can indicate a driver is getting drowsy.
- A headband that fits under a cap or beanie and measures electronic brain waves. The measurements are used to determine how alert the driver is, and a notification is sent to the driver if measurements indicate drowsiness.
- Cameras that track a driver’s face and gaze, making alarm noises and even vibrating the seat when signs of sleepiness are detected.
Also helpful in the effort to prevent truck driver fatigue: As of December, it is now mandatory that all trucks have an electronic logging device to record the driver’s driving time.
Biometric technology isn’t a sure fix for prevention
All of these technologies and monitoring efforts will need to combine with other improvements in the trucking industry to better prevent truck drivers from drowsy driving. The likelihood of drowsiness leading to truck accidents that injure other drivers is still high.