National Connections, Local Ownership
National Connections, Local Ownership

Can Truck Technology Really Make Drivers Healthier?

Wearable technology, like the Fitbit and iWatch, let wearers monitor their health, but technology can’t make people change their behavior.

From self-driving cars and trucks to watches that monitor a wearer’s heartrate to phones that alarm your house and car while you’re away, we’re experiencing technology in every aspect of our lives. In February, published an article, “A New Frontier in Driver Health,” that discussed the changes being advanced and contemplated by truck manufacturers to positively impact the health of commercial drivers.

The article starts by looking fifteen years into the future, where the cab will actually diagnose a driver’s health condition, prescribe a medication, and make an appointment with a doctor. Then, there’s a quick move to reality with a view of the actual technology currently being tested by luxury car manufacturers with a view towards making the technology available for commercial truck use as well.

Daimler is developing vehicle comfort systems that “emit mood-enhancing fragrances, massage, ambient light, ionization or more advanced climate control.” A new Energizing Comfort system, debuting this year in Mercedes S Class sedans, will use minute movements in seat cushions and backrests to keep drivers alert. It’s anticipated that this technology will eventually be available in all vehicles and that includes trucks.

Volvo Trucks North America is focusing on new technologies that will enhance driver safety, including technology that will help drivers get the sleep they need. That’s especially important since we know that sleep apnea or lack of sleep is one of the greatest commercial driver health risks, not just for the driver but for other vehicles sharing the road as well as we discussed in an earlier blog on this topic.

Volvo’s chief interior design engineer, Brian Balicki, states, “I think before long, we’ll see wearable computing items communicating with a vehicle, tracking things like blood pressure, heart rate and eye movement, to determine if drivers are sufficiently rested. And if they’re not, the vehicle will prompt the driver to pull off the highway and rest. And if they refuse, the vehicle takes over and either continues on the route, or pulls off the road on its own.”

However, despite advanced technology, old habits die hard and it’s well known that an over-the-road sedentary lifestyle contains some truly bad habits. We’ve published a number of blogs on the health conditions of today’s truck drivers and how, as those drivers age, the health conditions continue to get worse. Unhealthy fatty food, smoking, and a lack of exercise often lead to obesity, hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea, heart disease, and other harmful conditions.

Changing these habits may depend as much upon fleet policies and programs as it will upon technology itself. Fleets should consider instituting driver-health oriented initiatives that focus on diet and exercise; however, they need to keep top of mind the schedules that often keep drivers from participating properly in these types of programs. It’s important that fleets make programs from losing weight to stopping smoking easy for their drivers to participate in. Most important, this needs to be an integral part of your company culture. Technology can only do so much without the active participation and engagement of the people it’s developed to help.

Read the full article.

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