A California company is looking for a few trucking companies to help create a prototype alertness management program that could become part of the solution to truck driver fatigue.

Dr. Mark Rosekind, president of Alertness Solutions, Cupertino, CA, aims to get federal approval for a pilot project that will test fatigue management concepts in fleet operations.

There is a great deal of information about fatigue, he says. Now it is time to pull it together into a comprehensive program that can be proven in the field -- and duplicated throughout the industry.

"With anywhere from one to three companies, let's put an ideal program together, state-of-the-art, figure out not only what the elements are but how we are going to evaluate it, compared to what's going on now … and say, here's a model," he said.

Rosekind, who is associated with the NASA Ames Research Center and speaks frequently on fatigue issues, envisions working closely with the companies to integrate fatigue management principles into their systems. His program includes:

· Education and training. The aim is to encourage behavioral changes based on knowledge and strategies that are customized to a particular fleet's operation.

· Scheduling. Drivers' physiological makeup should be a factor in a company's scheduling, along with hours of service rules, labor contracts, the full range of costs, market conditions and seasonal demands.

· Countermeasures. The tactics are well understood: Get enough sleep, take naps, watch what you eat, use stimulants such as coffee correctly, get exercise, understand your circadian rhythms. What's required is corporate support and a culture that promotes fatigue management, and personal responsibility.

Rosekind says scientists understand a lot about fatigue, but they need to do more research -- particularly about how their theories can be applied in the real world. And he stresses that the hours of service rules need to be reformed to provide flexibility for different kinds of operations.

"Two things are important," he says. "One, we want to do it during actual trucking operations, which means it should be a real-world attempt to see how this is going to work. The second piece is, it's got to be a model that if it works, it can be easily and quickly transferred so that other people can start using it."
Rosekind expects to take his proposal to the Department of Transportation this summer, and be working with several fleets by fall.