Fatigue is a normal part of our lives. We’ve all been there. After a sleepless night or a particularly busy weekend, we might grab a cup of coffee and push through our day. For the haul truck operators in the field, fatigue management plays a crucial role in workplace safety.

The technology

The Driver Safety System (DSS) is an in-cab technology with a camera that monitors the operator’s facial and eye movements through a 24-point scan. The system is activated by a micro-sleep or distraction event. Operators who experience an event will be alerted through an audio alarm and seat vibration that are part of the DSS. Data from the system is sent to a monitoring service operated by Caterpillar, where safety advisors review and classify events. If a legitimate fatigue incident is identified, site personnel are contacted, and an internal procedure is activated to check on the health of the operator. 

“Everyone gets drowsy, it's normal,” says Anthony Van Tol, Specialist Project Engineer, Business and Operations Services. “The common drowsiness times are around 4 a.m. and 2 p.m. Micro-sleep is a temporary episode of sleep or drowsiness which may last for a fraction of a second or a few seconds, like closing your eyes, without even recognizing it. Managing and understanding fatigue, is a vital skill to learn.” 

Why are we doing this?

Within a shift work environment, fatigue is one of the leading causes of risk to operators. According to Caterpillar studies, 40 per cent of nighttime workers nod off during their shift. 

How it’s being implemented at Suncor

The project kicked off in the spring of 2021 as the team started looking at available technologies. Having already gone through the implementation of DSS at Syncrude Aurora and Mildred Lake sites, the team was able to leverage Syncrude’s knowledge and experience. 

As a proof of concept, DSS was installed on one truck this past summer, to prepare the mine wireless and data network configurations. DSS installations on the rest of the Base Plant haul truck fleet began this fall and will continue in 2023.  

This project has led to other opportunities for our workforce in understanding and managing fatigue. Working with fatigue specialists in the industry, the goal is to develop educational tools and a program for our workforce to help develop skills to manage the risk of fatigue for themselves. 

“This technology is another tool to help us be safe,” says Gerald Pratt, the General Manager of Mine Operations, Base Plant. “We’re leveraging information and learning along the way from others that use the technology.”