Sure, you are probably thinking, “Why would a truck driver want to put a headset on? Isn’t that technically unsafe?” Yes, it is, but it also depends on the nature and use of the headset.
When combined with telematics and other advanced safety systems, a simple headset could have a number of uses. Sensors built into the headset act as a wearable, monitoring specific aspects of bodily functions and movements to catch potential fatigue, distraction, or risky driving behavior.
Many large trucking companies are already testing new technologies such as advanced headsets. One 1,100-truck motor carrier with primarily flatbed operations has decided to test an advanced telematic, sensor-equipped headset solution to assess the safety benefits.
Where headsets have benefits is in their flexibility. A wearable wrist-device only provides monitoring and feedback. A high-quality Bluetooth headset, on the other hand, provides a way for the operator to engage in hands-free communication. Truck drivers can get voice commands from navigation apps or even listen to music or have a conversation with dispatch if need be.
With a speaker over only one ear, the truck driver can still clearly hear everything that is going on in and around his or her vehicle. Even better, truck drivers will see this as an essential communication and entertainment tool, when in fact it would also be a vital safety device.
The sensors inside the headset are able to detect subtle movements of the head. They can sense if the operator is looking at a gauge on the dashboard, or objects in or around the vehicle. Once calibrated, the built-in sensors can also utilize an algorithm to detect head bobs, lack of movement, or other signs of drowsiness, fatigue, or sleep risk.
There’s An App for That
With the smartphone age upon us, there seems to be an app for anything and everything, including the safety headset, which can communicate with a Co-Pilot app. With the app pulled up on their smartphone, the truck drivers will receive real-time driving feedback and even provides scores to rate them on whether they are doing things like checking their mirrors in a timely fashion.
Since the entire solution is also built with the ability to communicate with a truck’s CAM, it can also provide real-time data and feedback regarding speed, braking, turns, and more. Users even have the ability to program their own voice as the recording alert should the system need to provide an alert or warning.
Fleet managers benefit by having access to a web portal that gives them truck driver risk and skill levels. Managers can use that data for friendly competitions or better calibrate truck driver behaviors through private meetings and coaching sessions based on the data.
If a fleet manager wants to see if their truck drivers are checking their mirrors before proceeding through an intersection, they can easily log into their portal and pull up either historical or real-time data on any operator within the fleet who is on the system.
Many wonder how well these systems will take in the face of truck driver skepticism. It’s no great secret that truck drivers are not fans of inward-facing cameras, so will they see these other technologies as an acceptable alternative?
Provided motor carriers are properly positioning these technologies as a way for a truck driver to advance, do a better job, perhaps get a bonus or be recognized in some other way, there is no reason why truck drivers on their payroll should see this as a bad thing.
Technology is already changing the way we drive commercial motor vehicles, maybe it is time to embrace how it will change our levels of safe driving.