WOMBATT successfully completed trials for its technology in minesites in Peru and Guyana in 2019 and now has commercial users in the US . The technology uniquely tracks changes in fatigue through changes in the voice
Blink and you ’ ll miss it
Paul Moore spoke to all the leading players in both reactive and predictive fatigue management to find out where the industry is in terms of technology and uptake
Today , Caterpillar is the global leader in realtime or “ reactive ” fatigue management systems with its camera-based Driver Safety System ( DSS ) which monitors eye-closure duration and head pose and it now has over 5,000 units now deployed . IM spoke with Todd Dawson , the Cat Senior Fatigue Consultant about how the market has changed and how DSS has changed with it . “ Going back a few years , two of the biggest improvements I would mention are both on the technology and on the service and support side of things . Talking technology we have two releases of software upgrades for Cat DSS every year . We own the technology & IP on the mining side but our partner Seeing Machines continues to innovate on the R & D side for both on-highway and mining . The last two releases have focussed on improving the tracking . You can ’ t alert someone for falling asleep if the system can ’ t find the person ’ s face in certain circumstances so we have created what we call suppression zones . In terms of the camera , there are often certain areas of the pit or mining area where there might be tight manoeuvering such as reversing required where before the system may have flagged up a problem and issued an alarm as the operator isn ’ t looking ahead for a period of time . We can now identify those areas and suppress that response – remove the false positives . On the service and support side , there have been big improvements made in reporting and intervention . We have a monitoring centre in Peoria that captures all of the events as they come in as clips and our target is to get back in touch with site within two minutes and we are already at 94 % with that . If an operator has a microsleep , the chances of them having more go up very quickly if nothing in their environment changes so speed here is important . Plus as we have added more DSS units so we have had to grow the monitoring centre accordingly .”
Clips only appear to the safety advisors when a microsleep has occurred – and even this is typically over 3,000 in a 24 hour period . There are always four safety advisors on shift at any one time . Cat has invested a lot of time in training them and most of them have stayed in the role . Real time of course the operator gets an alarm in the truck – the safety advisor role is to warn the fleet management office locally at the mine that intervention is needed . “ It makes more sense this way as opposed to us trying to interact with the drivers directly . And there are of course language issues with mines spread across
multiple countries . Even for the contact with the local fleet management staff , while English is OK much of the time , if it isn ’ t workable we have prerecorded translated messages in place for that purpose as part of an automated system , which also works very well .”
IM also asked the question if the DSS unit numbers keep going up then surely the next
development would be getting the major Cat dealers to set up monitoring centres ? Actually this would
create as many issues as it would solve said Dawson . “ First off it is a major investment for any dealership to set up a high tech monitoring centre like that – but more importantly , the Tier 1 miners
have multiple operations in multiple regions that cut across two , three or even more Cat dealers . Newmont have already standardised with DSS
across all its sites so it makes sense for it to be handled from the centralised Peoria location . Other global miners like Rio Tinto , Barrick and Newcrest are also already using DSS at multiple sites . It may make sense in the future in key markets such as Finning for Chile or Westrac for WA to get dealers involved , but nothing has been decided on this as yet .” Some miners have also chosen to do their own monitoring . But many mines already have very busy dispatch teams and the management doesn ’ t want them having to deal with the added responsibility . It
isn ’ t just intervening , the microsleep events have to be classified and collated . So in some ways it is
better to leave it to the experts .
On the market side of things , it has been publicly stated that Newmont is using DSS across the board and discussions are ongoing with other global miners on similar arrangements . That said there are still many mining companies using different FMS strategies and technology at different sites whether for strategic reasons or often just because different local decisions were made for various reasons to go with one technology and as the mine has got used to that system they don ’ t then want to have to change it and make a new investment . Most mines tend to have one “ primary ” system for real time response whether installed in the truck or the driver using a wearable – so this includes Optalert glasses , Cat DSS , Hexagon MineProtect OAS and SmartCap as an example . But then in tandem with these some mines are also using a secondary Fitbit type more predictive device like the Fatigue Science ReadiBand to look at longer term fatigue trends over hours , days and weeks . Plus there might be some kind of non-fatigue related collision avoidance or proximity detection system installed on the truck .
Then of course there are change management issues – many of the technologies available will work if used and managed correctly but that means getting the training and operator acceptance & buyin side right and that is an area where Caterpillar feels it has a distinct advantage given its experience in numbers of deployment and longevity of deployments . Dawson did add that the nonwearable aspect of DSS is also an advantage as it doesn ’ t require the operator to remember to wear anything plus they may feel discomfort having to use wearables when tired .
What about the truck brand aspect – are the majority of DSS users running them on Cat fleets just because there was already a close working relationship ? “ Maybe surprisingly , we have just as many DSS units on non-Cat trucks as we do on Cat . In addition to being used on Cat surface and underground machines DSS has been applied on Komatsu , Hitachi and other brands on surface and even on Sandvik , Volvo and Epiroc trucks underground . If a technology is being rolled out across multiple sites it is inevitable that will involve many mixed fleets plus as open pits go underground , that safety focus often goes with the transition .”
So what about underground – why did surface FMS come first and is underground now catching up ? And on surface is it pretty much still all haul trucks – what about shovel operators not to mention light vehicles for personnel , wheel loaders , wheeled dozers , graders , water bowsers and other units ?
“ In a way underground is easier as the machines are making shorter trips , the shifts tend to be eight not 12 hours plus the environment is very fixed and defined . The only issue underground is lack of GPS as that is used on the surface system for equipment
64 International Mining | JANUARY 2021