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July 26, 2000 10:56 AM, EDT

Fatigue-Measuring Devices to Test Driver Alertness

Larry Rouvelas makes machines that he says can show when a driver is unfit for duty because of impairment by fatigue, drugs or alcohol, and he thinks the hours-of-service rules will eventually be replaced by detectors that will allow truckers to drive until they are measurably tired.

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Many share Rouvelas’ hope that technology can help reduce fatigue-related crashes, but some skeptics have doubts about the devices now on the market and question whether alertness sensors could ever be used for enforcement.

Trucking helped lay the groundwork for understanding how fatigue affects drivers in the 1996 Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Fatigue and Alertness Study. The Trucking Research Institute, a part of American Trucking Association Foundation, was involved in the seven-year evaluation that monitored the working and sleeping conditions of 80 truckers in the United States and Canada.

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The research, a joint project with the U.S. Department of Transportation and its Canadian equivalent, Transport Canada, found that the time of day rather than hours of driving was the most important influence on the alertness of a big rig operator. It also revealed that drivers were not very good at judging their level of fatigue.

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