Freight company opts to stay alert

Safety is paramount at Emerald Carrying Company, it always has been,? explains managing director Greg Haylock when asked why the Central Queensland transport company chose the Optalert product.

?It?s important to be safe, and to be seen as being a safety-conscious transport company. Using Optalert definitely helps us achieve that goal.?

Based in Emerald, about 270km west of Rockhampton, Emerald Carrying specialises in both fuel transport and general freight. And with more than 40 years? experience in the trucking business, Emerald has had its fair share of fatigue-related issues to contend with on the road.

Developed in Australia, Optalert DSD is a driver safety device, made up of a pair of driving glasses connected to an in-cab processor. The glasses use pulses of invisible light to constantly measure driver drowsiness by detecting changes in eye and eyelid movements. Updated minute by minute, a score between zero and 10 is displayed on a dash-mounted screen, with a higher score indicating a higher level of drowsiness.

While other safety systems rely on theoretical calculations of the driver?s ability to perform based on the time of day and the self-reporting of sleep patterns, Optalert actually measures the driver?s physiological state of alertness.
Importantly, the Optalert system also knows that a driver can be drowsy long before his eyes start to close, which is well into the stage where drowsiness has set in. This gives him time to take action before it is too late. For extra safety, Optalert also lets the driver know when drowsiness is a risk by emitting a loud beep and voice messages, allowing him to take the necessary precautionary action in order to get back to peak performance.

And it is operating at peak performance that is Greg Haylock?s main aim. Emerald Carrying recently won a contract carting fuel for Caltex from Mackay and Gladstone to BMA?s coal mines in Blackwater, Norwich Park, Saraji and Peak Downs. The job entails long driving shifts of anywhere between 10 and 14 hours on busy and sometimes dangerous roads.

With studies showing that as many as one-third of crashes on roads in Central Queensland can be attributed to fatigue-related factors, drowsiness is a real risk for drivers.

Although Optalert is used in the transport of highly flammable and explosive gases, Emerald Carrying Co is the first liquid fuel tanker
transporter in Australia to adopt the technology.

?We have three Optalert sets on trial at the moment,? said Greg. ?We?ve been using them for a couple of months and because our drivers are very good, we?ve only had a few moments when it?s gone off. That?s very reassuring, because even though all the roads are bitumen, they can be dangerous. There?s a lot of traffic on them and a lot of tired miners keen to get home after long shifts,? Greg reveals.
?What we have found interesting about the system is that even if you turn up for work and you?re not aware that you?re a little bit tired, Optalert will let you know. You may have had a bad night?s sleep and think you?re operating at 100 per cent, but that may not be the case.?
According to the Road Accident Action Group, last year there were 23 crashes on Mackay district roads, eight of which were fatigue related.
From these eight accidents, 12 deaths occurred.

?When driving on these roads you have to be alert 100 per cent of the time because there are a lot of accidents and most of them are fatigue related,? said Greg. ?That?s the idea behind the Optalert trial: looking at fatigue-related incidents and finding out why the drivers are having them. This can really help drivers determine why they?re tired.?

Tim Mulherin, the State Member for Mackay, is also concerned about safety in the region. As a long-standing resident with intimate knowledge of just how busy those roads can be, Tim Mulherin commended Emerald Carrying for its decision to employ the Optalert system.

?I applaud the use of the innovative Optalert safety device by drivers of the Emerald Carrying Company,? he said. ?The innovative technology is a great tool for keeping drivers alert and ultimately keeping Central Queensland roads safe.?

Designed for driver comfort as much as safety, Optalert glasses feature full UV protection, anti-glare coated glasses, interchangeable lightweight and scratch-resistant lenses, and nine different silicon nose pads.

?The drivers are happy with the glasses,? Greg adds. ?Like anything, it can take some time for people to get used to a new product, but once our drivers got the hang of it and realised what the system can do, they were very impressed with it.

?Caltex are also impressed. We spoke to them about it and they?re right behind us. And it?s good for BMA to know that we?re addressing every possible safety angle as well while we?re working for them.?

Along with the significant savings Optalert offers transport companies around repairs, equipment replacement, accident investigation, compensation and legal representation, being seen to be a highly safety conscious transport company can help give that competitive edge.
?It definitely wouldn?t do you any harm, that?s for sure!? Greg confirms. ?It also helps for insurance companies to see that you?re not a high-risk customer. It means you can angle for a better deal. In fact, we first heard about Optalert from an insurance company risk assessor.

?He does a lot of consulting for transport companies and told us that it was a handy management tool. Because I valued his opinion we looked into it. We actually weren?t looking for anything like this at the time, but we?re always open to new ways to provide a safer working environment for our drivers.?

Emerald Carrying sourced the Optalert safety device from exclusive distributor PACCAR Parts? Mackay branch. As the leading truck and trailer parts name behind such legendary brands as Kenworth and DAF, Optalert is proud to be associated with the Australia-wide network.

Source: Optalert/Write Communications

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