Truck drivers showing signs of falling asleep at the wheel will get a wake-up call courtesy of new technology being fitted to some heavy vehicles.
The infrared device focuses on the driver’s face and if they shut their eyes or look away from the road, their seat will vibrate and an alarm will sound.
Toll Group has fitted the technology to more than 1100 trucks in its national fleet, with company spokesman Jacques van Niekerk confirming wider distribution after a six-month trial.
“We have never had an accident so far where people have fallen asleep where we have the equipment on board,” Mr van Niekerk told reporters in Melbourne on Monday, noting the system has been activated repeatedly.
“We get a lot of alerts as we go on, seven alerts in the past week.”
A message is sent to monitors in the United States before coming back to the company’s Tullamarine control room within two minutes, he said.
After a driver is caught, they’ll get a call from the control room and be asked to pull over for a forced 30-minute break.
They’ll have to answer questions about how much sleep they’ve had and also be quizzed on other issues which may be impacting their ability to drive.
The driver is then monitored for the remainder of their trip.
Repeat alerts mean drivers will face tougher questions. In some instances a replacement driver will be sent to take over the trip.
“It’s a big push to get it in. It is absolutely about safety,” Mr van Niekerk said.
“For drivers it is hard to understand that we are not using it to spy on them, or to look at them, but we have more interesting things to do than sit and watch you drive a truck.”
The transport company has plans to retrofit all existing vehicles within the next three years, and all new trucks will have the technology.
There are other cameras in the cabin, including one facing the road and another facing into the cabin to capture the driver’s reaction in the case of an incident.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack was on hand for Monday’s announcement to inspect the Australian technology and open the company’s national control room.
“This is a great boon for the transport industry to make sure their truck drivers are getting home sooner and safer, making sure they monitor their truck drivers in real time,” he said.