Long distance truck driving isn’t easy. Between the risk of accidents, the long hours, and the upkeep on one’s rig, driving a truck can be far more difficult – and tiring – than most people think. Drivers often get paid based on how quickly they can deliver their shipments, prompting many drivers to drive much longer hours than they should by whatever means necessary.
Thousands of drivers lose their lives in accidents on highways each year, many of which are caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel after long hours on the road. In order to remedy this problem, one politician believes the solution is to start administering electric shock to tired truck drivers in order to jolt them awake. What could go wrong?
That proposal was suggested by Melinda Pavey, the Roads Minister for the state of New South Wales in Australia. Pavey made the suggestion after a horrendous accident involving a long distance truck in the Australian town of Dubbo which took the life of two teenagers and shocked the local community. In a radio interview Wednesday morning, Road Minister Pavey told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that while the proposition sounds ridiculous, such devices are already in use and that making them mandatory for all drivers could save lives:
The technology now is so advanced, a driver can be driving and get an electric shock if they look away from the windscreen for more than two seconds. If a driver is a fluttering their eyes in tiredness or looking away, there are a variety of measures that can alert the driver. That can be through an electronic jab through the seat that gives a slight buzz or a message and some of our best companies are using that technology and investing in their workforce and safety.
Not surprisingly, truck drivers have not taken kindly to Pavey’s proposal. The Transport Workers’ Union called the strategy “heartless, arrogant and completely incompetent” and blasted her “continued lack of leadership.” The Union argued that extreme, unfair working conditions are the cause of the problems, not drivers.
While it might sound like a ridiculous proposition at first, there are actually many devices on the market designed for such a purpose. Most of these devices are smart wearables such as bracelets which can sense when drivers get sleepy or drift off the road and administer a slight electric shock similar to a toy hand buzzer. Still, many drivers resist the idea, claiming it essentially turns them into cattle. While the mandatory use of such technology could dehumanize or humiliate drivers, it could actually save lives. Would that be worth it? Or should we all just hope for the best while we wait for the arrival of fleets of self-driving trucks? Why not both?