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including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Truck donated to Transportation Center

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 21 Issue 07 - October 8, 1998

The Virginia Tech Center for Transportation Research (CTR) has a new Peterbilt long-haul truck and will soon be recruiting drivers for a national research project.
Center Director Tom Dingus said the PACCAR, Inc. Technical Center in Mt. Vernon, Washington, has given the Virginia Tech Center for Transportation Research a Peterbilt Model 379 long-haul/sleeper-cab tractor in exchange for a portable data-collection system, and for the development of human-factors specifications for displaying information to drivers.
Virginia Tech transportation researchers with the center will develop hardware and software for a portable data-collection system that records such information as steering-wheel position, accelerator-pedal position, brake-pedal position, and lateral and longitudinal acceleration. Up to four video cameras and two microphones feed data to a suitcase-size unit that can be moved from vehicle to vehicle as needed. Andy Petersen of the CTR's hardware-engineering lab will install the cameras and microphones in the PACCAR test vehicle.
In addition, the Virginia Tech CTR will develop human-computer interaction specifications for an in-vehicle information system designed specifically for heavy trucks. University researchers will evaluate a system that displays information to the truck driver. In addition to fuel and speed gauges, systems being tested will display other kinds of information to drivers, such as automated messages and warning systems, object detection information, and vehicle-management functions.
The Center for Transportation Research will use the new truck immediately for a national Sleeper Berth Sleep Quality study. Vicki Neale, research scientist at the center, will use the Peterbilt, as well as a truck previously donated by Volvo/GM, in her study of sleeper berths and driver fatigue.
The research, funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), will determine the effects of sleeper-berth use on long-haul drivers' alertness and driving performance; assess the quality of rest achieved while vehicles are parked and in motion; and evaluate the effects of irregular schedules and sleeper-berth use patterns on driver alertness and performance. "We are interested in evaluating factors that impact the quality and quantity of sleep," Neale said.
Ten national focus groups were held last year with long-haul drivers in eight cities. The groups included men and women, union and non-union drivers, young and old drivers, and owner-operators and company drivers. "We asked them how they use their truck and its sleeper, and what impacted sleep and fatigue. Better thermal insulation and noise insulation were frequent recommendations--particularly noise barriers between the cab and the sleeper," Neale said.
The Virginia Tech researchers are recruiting owner operators and small company drivers to drive the transportation research center's trucks. "Beginning in December, we will have runs of different lengths, from three to 12 days, and they will be pulling a load that has to be delivered," Neale said.
The drivers will keep a log of their sleep quality and quantity, when they go to the berth, and when they get up. It will be compared to the driver's performance, which will be recorded using the CTR system that looks at steering, lane tracking, lateral and longitudinal movement, and how long before drivers need a rest break.
The data-collection system consists of cameras around the truck, cab, and sleeper that record continuously at low frames per minute until a performance variable exceeds a particular parameter, at which point, cameras begin to record in real time. An example might be a rapid steering reversal, a hard breaking maneuver, or an unplanned lane deviation.
The study will conclude in August, 2000.