What do Formula 1 drivers, members of the Springbok rugby team and ace golfer Ernie Els have in common with truck drivers? The answer is – eyes! Yep. They all have eyes and the link between them all is they all have the inherent ability to train those eyes to better perform in their various functions.
The link between the visual performance of truck drivers and sportsmen was recognised by Andrew Crickmay, , co-founder with Karen Neary of the Driver Information Bureau, when he came across the work of Dr Sherylle Calder, a sports scientist at the University of Stellenbosch Sports Science Institute who had worked with top sportsmen and women improving their visual performance with staggering results on the global sporting stage.
Some of her highlights included two Rugby World Cup wins with Sir Clive Woodward and Jake White, a British Masters with Ernie Els and many other accolades in sports, ranging from Formula1 racing driving to polo cross.
Dr Calder saw the parallels between high performing sportsmen and drivers and had developed a programme called EyeGym which has 20 000 private drivers on the Discovery Insure rewards programme.
Given that the foundation of defensive driving is the concept of ‘See-Predict-Decide and Act’ (S-P-D-A), Crickmay saw some big potential here to extend the EyeGym programme into the trucking arena as the ability of a driver to implement the S-P-D-A concept depends to a large extent on the ability of his visual performance – or eye and brain – to perform these tasks.
He then contacted Dr Calder and the result was that she custom built a product called ‘EyeGym Trucker’ specifically for truck drivers for the Driver Information Bureau. The next step was to prove the theory. For this, Crickmay approached Unitrans, one of the top transport companies in South Africa and they readily agreed to conduct the experiment.
“Unitrans provided us access to 31 fuel tanker drivers. We trained 19 of them on EyeGym Trucker’s on-line computer drills and with the remaining drivers, we kept two control groups – one that did not train at all and one that trained for half the minimum period,” says Crickmay.
Using Unitrans telematics system from Mix-Telematics, as well as their Drivecam on-board camera analysis of driving incidents, a baseline for the preceding 12 months for each driver in each group was established.
The 19 drivers were assessed and were then trained four times a week on touch screen computers linked to the internet in 10 to 15 minute sessions for a month. The weaker of the drivers repeated the training four months later. The results were monitored on MiX Telematics and Drivecam reports for an average of eight months after the training began.
To ensure the experiment was ‘sound’, Professor Peter Lynne at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal was consulted and in his opinion, the sample size was adequate to make reliable inferences from the results. The results were amazing – see Table 1.
Control Groups 1 and 2 – those who did not train at all and those who trained for half the minimum period – showed a negative and an 8% improvement respectively. On the other hand, the third group comprising the 19 drivers who underwent the EyeGym Truckers training showed a dramatic improvement of over 55%.
In addition to this, drivers themselves were surveyed to get anecdotal evidence which is reflected in Table 2 showing the results of the drivers that answered yes to the three questions:
“By conducting this experiment to improve how drivers See-Predict-Decide and Act, we were able to prove conclusively that by improving Eye-Brain function, we could increase telematics scores by more than 50%. This holds enormous promise for those transport operators and drivers who are willing to implement it,” says Crickmay.
This is ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking and FleetWatch congratulates both Crickmay and Dr Calder on introducing to the trucking industry a dynamic way to improve driver performance so as to save lives on our roads. We also lift our hats to Unitrans for pushing the safety envelope. It’s the way to go.
This DriveCam video of an actual ‘near-miss’ on the road shows the importance of being able to ‘See-Predict-Decide and Act’. You have mere seconds to avoid death at times. EyeGym Trucker has been shown to improve Eye-Brain function dramatically.