Fleet

New laws, technology needed to fight truck driver fatigue in Gulf – experts

Driver fatigue can lead to a delayed response time to hazards

PHOTO: Companies can encourage drivers to perform better by rewarding them for good performance, says Volvo Trucks Middle East. Credit: Volvo Trucks

Driver fatigue is a major problem in the region that needs to be tackled with a combination of legislation and technological solutions, experts say.

Drivers often work shifts of 13 to 16 hours or longer, creating a potentially catastrophic situation on the roads, said Stefan Schnitzler, importer and dealer support manager at MAN Truck & Bus Middle East.

Fatigue can lead to delayed response time to road hazards, which in turn can increase the likelihood of accidents and, in extreme cases, lead to loss of life. Legislating the number of driving hours is the first step towards fighting fatigue, he noted.

Ian Drury, transport solutions development manager and head of driver development at Volvo Trucks Middle East, agreed that more legislation is needed, as is common regulation across the GCC. “We don’t have any driver resting and driving times,” he said.

One of the main causes behind driver fatigue is that many companies in the region incentivise drivers by paying them per trip.

Instead, drivers should be encouraged to drive better, and the company can reward the best or safest driver in the fleet, perhaps with cash incentives, Drury said.

Brodie von Berg, sales and marketing director at MiX Telematics Middle East and Asia, noted that other factors can also lead to fatigue. “Even the food you’re consuming can have an impact, and the circadian rhythm.”

For instance, drivers are more prone to be sleepy at certain times of the day, like at 3pm or 4pm.

Technology like telematics or fleet management systems can be a possible solution to combat fatigue, enabling firms to monitor the hours each driver puts in and ensure they take breaks on long journeys.

“On our new range of trucks, we can insert a memory key into the truck which tells us who’s driving the truck and how long he’s been driving,” Drury said.

“Through the telematics system, the company can see how long he’s been running and call him up and say he needs to stop and rest.”

MiX Telematics is looking at finding new ways to prevent drivers from getting behind the wheel when tired.

“We’re exploring technology and doing various trials with wearable devices, and these actually help us understand what is going on with that individual driver this time,” he said, noting that wearable devices like glasses, hats and watches can provide more insight into a driver’s alertness in real times and enable fleets to take proactive measures if he is at risk of fatigue.

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