Wearables in Trucking—A Fad or the Future?
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Wearable technology is still a nicety for consumers; however, the transportation industry sees significant potential for its use in trucking, particularly as it pertains to driver safety and risk aversion. Wrist pieces (such as Apple Watch), headbands and headsets, and even technology-enabled clothing can offer truck drivers measurable benefits in terms of navigational efficiencies, driver health, and safety precautions, all while communicating data back to fleet managers to give them actionable insights.
Consider the following uses of this technology:
- Driving Alerts and Navigation. Smartwatches with built-in GPS navigation can dispatch message alerts to drivers with physical notifications that “tap” the driver on the wrist or deliver vibrations at various intervals and intensities. Also known as haptic feedback, this type of alert can notify drivers when they’re exceeding speed limits, offer turn-by-turn navigation assistance, warn of a vehicle in the driver’s blind spots, or signal an open door when parked. When combined with sound notifications, these alerts keep drivers focused and informed without taking their eyes off the road (Transport Topics).
- Gamification. Wearable gadgets can be used to scorecard drivers by leveraging gaming approaches that encourage healthy competition between peers. One available app draws data from the truck’s telematics to measure occurrences in on-time deliveries, hard acceleration, and hard braking to rate drivers and offer benchmarks for improvement (AlertDriving).
- Hours of Service Compliance. Smartwatches and apps easily track and display remaining hours of service, or calculate driver sleep time, to help commercial drivers proactively battle fatigue and comply with federal regulations.
- Health Scanning. Driver health is often a concern, and wearables can help identify many health warning signs. Like popular fitness trackers, driver-based apps leverage sensor technologies in wristbands, smartwatches, headbands, or smartshirts to monitor a driver’s heart rate, breathing rate, chest expansion and contraction, and body positioning. Such data helps drivers understand when they need rest or medical attention (Transport Topics).
- Fatigue Monitoring. Perhaps the most impactful use for wearables in trucking safety today is in monitoring driver fatigue. Hats and headsets equipped with EEG and other biometric sensors monitor the wearer’s brain waves and physiological markers for signs of fatigue, including incidents of microsleep or “headbobs.” Tests are also currently underway for a promising, wrist-worn, sleep tracker that measures fatigue as an impairment much like intoxication. For example, a driver would receive a notification when fatigue levels approach 70%, which is similar to a blood alcohol level of 0.08% (AlertDriving).
While wearables could have a big future in trucking, experts see hurdles to widespread adoption. Truck drivers as a group have always been reluctant to try new technology. This stems from the expense and the learning curve, each of which are steep, as well as the underlying fear that monitoring could lead to punishment. Most significantly, wearable technology suffers from an image problem in that drivers don’t yet see it as a necessity like smartphones. However, as new apps that help make drivers safer and more productive come to market, it is possible that fleets and their drivers will put more of them to use on the road, and wearables just might become a mainstay in trucking.
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