BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) - The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute will conduct a federal study to determine how regulated sleep schedules affect truck drivers.
The research institute signed a $2.5 million contract with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to monitor the behaviors of more than 200 long-haul truck drivers who won’t have to adhere to consecutive eight-hour sleeping schedules, The Roanoke Times (https://bit.ly/1PgODu8) reported.
San Diego-based SmartDrive Systems will place cameras inside the vehicles to capture footage of the driver and the road. The institute will also give each driver an electronic wristband unit to measure how much sleep they get.
“The study is trying to understand: Are drivers driving with less or more skill depending on when they have used their sleeper berth? ” said SmartDrive CEO Steve Mitgang. “Then you have video evidence to see what the driver was actually doing in the cab.
“If you are swerving, the video will trigger. Did the driver actually have his eyes closed for a significant period of time? . Or was it in fact a deer the driver was avoiding?”
Each participating driver would spend about three months in the study, which is expected to last a year.
At Virginia Tech, Center for Truck and Bus Safety director Richard Hanowski said the institute still has to find drivers for the study, so the monitoring part of the study won’t start until at least 2017.
Attention about the dangers of tired truckers escalated after a 2014 highway crash in New Jersey that severely injured Tracy Morgan and killed another comedian. Authorities had said a Wal-Mart truck driver had had no sleep for more than 24 hours before hitting the back of Morgan’s limousine.
The trucking industry has been sparring with safety advocates and unions over driver hours for two decades, including several trips to federal court.
Scientists say sleep deprivation affects behavior much like alcohol, eroding judgment and slowing reflexes.
Nearly 4,000 people die in large truck crashes each year, and driver fatigue is a leading factor, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Information from: The Roanoke Times, https://www.roanoke.com
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