February 10, 2022
AMTA is releasing a series of profiles of the people involved with the Cooperative Truck Platooning System (CTPS) project. The project is currently processing data from the nation’s first pair of artificially intelligent semi-trucks of their kind, including human factors.
A key element of the CTPS project is the study of human factors – including fatigue – and for Mike Harnett, president of Solaris Fatigue Management, her company is the link between science and applying fatigue management in the real world of their customers.
“I always say, this career chose me, I didn’t choose it,” she said.
In her first job after graduating, Harnett focused on injury prevention with a Canadian railway company after a tragic freight train incident in which 23 people were killed.
“After an intense investigation, over 300 contributing factors were identified, but the key contributors to this tragic event was a combination of poor work culture and fatigued workers,” she explained. “From there, I was sent to Washington DC and Michigan to learn about these emerging topics called Human Factors and Ergonomics, and leaders in Australia were beginning to share their initial studies in Fatigue Management. They were really in their infancy. I’ve been augmenting my education and learnings ever since.”
Harnett said AMTA reached out to Solaris in 2020 regarding submission of a bid for the CTPS project to Transport Canada.
“I welcomed the opportunity to work with the AMTA and the other partners they had lined up, knowing that we were dealing with an issue that would have a strong impact on future regulations and the promotion of a fatigue risk management system beyond hours of service rules.”
Harnett explained most of today’s technology comes from experts in engineering and IT, but very few have employed human factors professionals into the mix.
“Thankfully, Transport Canada recognized this when they were reviewing the potential impact of a CTPS coming in to play. We already know that commercial drivers are subject to high levels of fatigue and decreased alertness while driving due to specific work factors including schedule designs, workload, sedentariness on longer routes, and personal factors such as poor sleep hygiene, sleep disorders, etc.
She added research clearly indicates when a driver is affected by fatigue, it negatively affects their reaction times (e.g., slower to brake), their situational awareness of traffic around them as well as their own driving behaviour (e.g., lane deviations), their visual acuity, and they are more likely to have difficulty with problem solving, reasoning and logic when something interrupts the normal driving experience.
While “fatigue is not something we are going to eradicate”, Harnett said organizations who accept that can turn their attention to mitigating risk through avoiding fatigue-promoting activities in the work system; looking at the task of driving through a fatigue lens; to see how much higher the risk is when driving while tired and supporting drivers with education and awareness on how best to manage fatigue.
“Fatigue management only works if you adapt it to fit into the context of your operations and what may work for one industry, or one company within that industry, does not always work for another,” she said. “That’s what makes Solaris different.”