Fleets widely use uplinked data and analytics to optimize trucks' operation. Maybe it's time to apply the same formula to drivers' care to get more out of fatigue-fighting programs, one company argues.

"Companies can optimize their trucks — they can put in things like video cameras and lots of systems to help reduce risk and improve safety from the vehicle side of things," points out Dr. Jeffrey Durmer, co-founder of population sleep health program provider FusionHealth.

"But once a driver walks in and they're sleep-deprived to begin with, there's really nothing you can do," he adds.

Georgia-based FusionHealth offers its programs across the United States, and specifically for trucking, the primary target is sleep apnea. Durmer contends that many anti-driver fatigue programs don't address underlying causes of the problem and instead focus on making scheduling less onerous.

"A lot of fatigue management programs out there do a great job at optimizing shifts and scheduling — the timing of when someone will be at maximum performance — and that's great, as soon as you have a workforce that's rested.

"Until you have that, though, all those little tweaks don't really add up to much," he continues. FusionHealth's program, according to Durmer, is designed to get at a big root cause of driver fatigue by treating sleep apnea in particular. 

Being a commercial truck driver is very demanding in that sleep-wake cycles can easily be thrown off, he says, building up fatigue and causing or exacerbating other health problems as well. "Drivers can be way off their sleep time, regardless of the regulations around hours of service," Durmer contends.

"You've got to take care of the human factor that's the underlying, core cause in the vast majority of people having fatigue," he explains. "Sleep apnea is so common in the truck driver population — we're really at a point where it's not about the technology in the vehicles, it's the human factor.

"It's about the drivers getting enough rest."