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November 13, 2019
CDC, NIOSH plan driver fatigue study

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are seeking comments on a proposed study of the effectiveness of the North American Fatigue Management Program (NAFMP). The CDC and NIOSH plan to observe 180 long-haul and regional truck drivers using in-vehicle monitoring systems, questionnaires, sensors, and smartphones to collect data.

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The NAFMP was developed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Transport Canada, and others to address commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver fatigue. In 2015, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) identified a need to fully evaluate the NAFMP and whether recommendations for the program are supported by scientific evidence.

The CDC and NIOSH hope to gather such evidence in the proposed study. The agencies plan to collect data from CMV drivers focused on driving performance, sleep, and sleepiness.

Researchers will compare outcomes between prerollout of the NAFMP, in which drivers will operate as they did before their participation in the study, and after the rollout of the NAFMP training and education modules, in which drivers and managers will operate with increased knowledge, strategies, and techniques intended to reduce fatigue.

A sample of 180 eligible drivers will be recruited over a 2-year period to participate in the study and include approximately 90 regional and 90 long-haul drivers. Drivers who have a valid Class A commercial driver’s license (CDL) and have worked at a participating company in regional and long-haul operations for at least 1 year will be eligible for the study.

Researchers will collect information during the study using the following methods:

  • Real-time fatigue monitoring systems installed in participating drivers’ vehicles;
  • Smartphone apps to collect a psychomotor vigilance test, Karolinska Sleepiness Scale, sleep log, difficulty-of-drive scale, degree-of-drive-hazards scale, fatigue scale, and stress scale;
  • Electronic logging devices to collect data on drivers’ duty and driving;
  • Wristband sensors to collect data on driver sleep and wake times—drivers will be asked to sync the sensor daily with a smartphone app; and
  • Smartphone or Web-based questionnaires, including exercise and food consumption questionnaires, quality of life questionnaires, family interactions questionnaires, and job satisfaction questionnaires.

Driver fatigue concerns

Fatigue is a preventable cause of crashes, including CMV crashes. Researchers have compared driver fatigue to alcohol impairment. One study found that after 17 consecutive hours awake, impairment is equivalent to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05. After 24 hours awake, impairment is equivalent to a BAC of .10, according to NIOSH.

Reducing fatigue-related crashes is one of the top 10 changes sought by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to reduce overall transportation accidents.

“We are calling for a comprehensive approach to combating fatigue in transportation, focusing on research, education, and training; technology; sleep disorder treatment; hours-of-service regulations; and on- and off-duty scheduling policies and practices,” the Board said in a report in February.

Research into driver fatigue also is a priority in NIOSH’s National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA). Comments on the proposed driver fatigue study are due January 3, 2020.

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