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Alta. study underway

CALGARY, Alta. - Alberta's much anticipated Fatigue Management Program has begun examining the issue of truck-driver fatigue.Lane Kranenburg, general manager of the Alberta Trucking Industry Safety As...

CALGARY, Alta. – Alberta’s much anticipated Fatigue Management Program has begun examining the issue of truck-driver fatigue.

Lane Kranenburg, general manager of the Alberta Trucking Industry Safety Association, says the pilot project will focus on several concerns about driver fatigue.

“Right now, we recognize it as a problem and we’re trying to work at getting a good educational program out there for the industry,” says Kranenburg.

The association, along with Alberta Infrastructure, Transport Canada and the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB), will head the 10-month program, he explains. The Quebec and U.S. governments are also contributing to the topic through projects of their own.

Currently, there are 36 drivers from four carriers – Mantei’s Transport Ltd., Grimshaw Trucking Ltd., Canadian Freightways Ltd. and Greyhound Lines of Canada – participating in phase one of the test. The program examines the issue of driver fatigue from a broad perspective by involving not only the driver, but his family and employer, as well.

Meanwhile, a similar study south of the border is taking a more technical approach to the topic.

“There is a study in the United States which is a more fatigue management technology focused project, but (this one) is much more focused on the human being than technology,” says Dr. Adam Moscovitch, medical director of the Canadian Sleep Institute (CSI) – the organization administering the testing. “Eventually we hope that what we find in both studies will be incorporated into a comprehensive, effective and manageable package that takes care of the problem.”

While the Alberta project is to be lifestyle oriented, a wrist-worn device, called an actigraph, will monitor all driver activities.

“It’s a sophisticated piece of medical equipment that the individual puts on their wrist. They can wear it for a week or up to two weeks and it gives an analysis of what their schedule, in terms of activity, has been during that time,” says Moscovitch. “That same device also monitors light levels, so we know when the particular individual is driving during the day and when he’s driving during the night.”

Additional tests will be conducted on participants to measure their reaction time and their sleep patterns. But these tests will be carried out when the driver is off-duty.

Darshan Kailley, president and chief executive officer of Canadian Freightways in Calgary, says his company has several drivers actively participating. They’ve agreed to undergo testing and monitoring, to enable researchers to gain a better understanding of fatigue. He, like the rest of the industry, hopes the end result will improve safety standards across the board.

“Hopefully this will provide insight into what sleeping habits are like so that ultimately we can continue to run a safe operation or improve on certain things that might come out of the study,” says Kailley. “It’s a matter of safety and determining if there’s a way to be a better, cleaner operation than we are today. We’re pretty good today, but maybe we can be better.”

Dennis Pettit is Canadian Freightways’ advisor for safety and loss prevention. He says that participating in the study may help improve the way that driver fatigue is monitored and managed.

“It’ll help establish, for the industry, some meaningful hours or times to be running things,” says Pettit. “It’ll help to establish a good program in order to ensure there are well rested drivers on the highway.”

Pettit suggests that the results may indicate there’s room for improvement to the current Hours-of-Service regulations.

“The Hours of Service, the way they are today, often make a driver sleep when he’s not tired,” says Pettit. “We should be using the driver when he’s not tired and he should be in bed when he is tired.”

He adds that Canadian Freightways is pleased to be involved in the project and contributing to a worthwhile cause.

“We’re making sure that dispatchers and other company officials know what risk they put people in, if they insist on having them work beyond their level of ability to withstand fatigue,” he says. The aim is to accomplish this without interfering with the carrier’s ability to compete in the industry, he explains.

“Our intent is not to change our service,” says Kranenburg. “If that’s the only thing we accomplish, we will have failed. This is about lifestyle and time management – well within the current regulations.”

Success could mean fewer accidents, increased driver efficiency, reduced turnover, lower workers compensation costs and lower insurance rates for all trucking companies.

The board has chipped in $85,000 toward the project, in hopes that driver safety will improve.

“Fatigue affects everybody on the job, in one way or another, in a lot of cases, and if we can help prevent just a few accidents with this, then it has been well worth the investment,” says Paula Power, communications advisor with WCB.

Although still in its early stages of development, Clarke is pleased with the progress made on the project thus far.

“Everything I’ve heard so far has been positive,” says Clarke.

“If we are able to show that we can make a difference in how drivers and carriers manage fatigue, and these things reduce fatigue, then we can say we’ve been enormously successful.” n

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1 Comment » for Alta. study underway
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