AMTA Platooning Profiles

Mike Harnett, president of Solaris Fatigue Management, with one of the two Cooperative Truck Platooning System trucks at the AMTA Rocky View location.

Mike Harnett, president of Solaris Fatigue Management, with one of the two Cooperative Truck Platooning System trucks at the AMTA Rocky View location.

Platooning Profiles: Mike Harnett, President, Solaris Fatigue Management

AMTA is releasing a series of profiles of the people involved with the Cooperative Truck Platooning System (CTPS) project. The project is currently processing data from the nation’s first pair of artificially intelligent semi-trucks of their kind, including human factors.

A key element of the CTPS project is the study of human factors – including fatigue – and for Mike Harnett, president of Solaris Fatigue Management, her company is the link between science and applying fatigue management in the real world of their customers.

“I always say, this career chose me, I didn’t choose it,” she said.

In her first job after graduating, Harnett focused on injury prevention with a Canadian railway company after a tragic freight train incident in which 23 people were killed.

“After an intense investigation, over 300 contributing factors were identified, but the key contributors to this tragic event was a combination of poor work culture and fatigued workers,” she explained. “From there, I was sent to Washington DC and Michigan to learn about these emerging topics called Human Factors and Ergonomics, and leaders in Australia were beginning to share their initial studies in Fatigue Management. They were really in their infancy. I’ve been augmenting my education and learnings ever since.”

Harnett said AMTA reached out to Solaris in 2020 regarding submission of a bid for the CTPS project to Transport Canada.

“I welcomed the opportunity to work with the AMTA and the other partners they had lined up, knowing that we were dealing with an issue that would have a strong impact on future regulations and the promotion of a fatigue risk management system beyond hours of service rules.”

Harnett explained most of today’s technology comes from experts in engineering and IT, but very few have employed human factors professionals into the mix.

“Thankfully, Transport Canada recognized this when they were reviewing the potential impact of a CTPS coming in to play. We already know that commercial drivers are subject to high levels of fatigue and decreased alertness while driving due to specific work factors including schedule designs, workload, sedentariness on longer routes, and personal factors such as poor sleep hygiene, sleep disorders, etc.

She added research clearly indicates when a driver is affected by fatigue, it negatively affects their reaction times (e.g., slower to brake), their situational awareness of traffic around them as well as their own driving behaviour (e.g., lane deviations), their visual acuity, and they are more likely to have difficulty with problem solving, reasoning and logic when something interrupts the normal driving experience.

While “fatigue is not something we are going to eradicate”, Harnett said organizations who accept that can turn their attention to mitigating risk through avoiding fatigue-promoting activities in the work system; looking at the task of driving through a fatigue lens; to see how much higher the risk is when driving while tired and supporting drivers with education and awareness on how best to manage fatigue.

“Fatigue management only works if you adapt it to fit into the context of your operations and what may work for one industry, or one company within that industry, does not always work for another,” she said. “That’s what makes Solaris different.”

 This article was originally posted February 10, 2022 on

Alberta Motor Transport Association

Platooning Profiles,

Platooning Profiles: Mike Harnett, President, Solaris Fatigue Management – AMTA – Alberta Motor Transport Association

The 16 Per Cent

The 16 Per Cent

Mike Harnett poses with one of the two Cooperative Truck Platooning System trucks. 

Opportunities for women in Canada’s commercial transportation industry available and growing

Kelsey Hipkin, Staff Writer, AMTA

Since 1909, when it was known as Minister of Railways, a man had always been named as Alberta’s Transportation Minister. That all changed when Rajan Sawhney was sworn in as the province’s first woman Transportation Minister on July 8, 2021.

Minister Sawhney is well aware of what that means for women in both leadership roles, and women in the logistics and supply chain.

“I’ve been an advocate for women, probably since the day I was born,” she said.

With a start in finance, Minister Sawhney identified more opportunities in the world of oil and gas and with the help of a government grant, earned an internship to get her foot in the door.

“I was working with a group of engineers and geologists and geophysicists – very technical [and] predominantly male,” she explained. “[There were] a few women and it was quite challenging because I was trying to juggle motherhood and childcare and family, as well as with a new internship, but I was so determined to prove myself. I even used to work on the weekends on my projects and focus on my presentation skills so that I would be deemed worthy to hire on full-time, and I was hired on full-time.”

Alberta Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney addressing the crowd at the Alberta Motor Transport Association Cooperative Truck Platooning System unveil. Photo, AMTA

Statistics show commercial transportation is also a predominantly male workforce. According to statistics from Trucking HR Canada, women make up a mere 3.5 per cent of truck drivers in Canada, compared to 16 per cent in trucking and logistics and 48 per cent across all industries in the country.

A 2020 report compiled by Trucking HR and the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA), Recruiting and Retaining Diverse Communities: An Employer Roadmap breaks down those statistics even further. The report states women in freight transportation make up 1.5 per cent of automotive service, truck and bus mechanics; 19.1 per cent of managerial staff; 38.7 per cent of dispatchers and 20.2 per cent of parts technicians.

BJ Zoobkoff found her way into commercial transportation by chance. Moving to Calgary to be closer to her father, she utilized a staffing agency and received a call for a one-year contract at a warehousing company.

“I had never had an interest in transportation and warehousing but was up for the challenge and it was close to home, so it was the perfect fit for me,” she said. “When my contract was about to finish, the company offered me a full-time position. At first, I thought ‘this is great, I will try this for another year and see where I land’. Here we are over 20 years later and I’m still loving it.

“It was not only all the daily challenges that made me fall in love with this industry, it was the relationships I got to build with fellow coworkers and customers. It was knowing that this was an industry that would always be thriving.”

BJ Zoobkoff, front, and fellow volunteers at a 2021 Driver Appreciation Days event. Photo submitted.

Fostering relationships within a chosen industry and with other women is wisdom shared by Minister Sawhney. She suggests for women looking for a change of career or to better their circumstances, they talk to women both in their network and outside of it.

“[If women] try to open up their horizons a little bit, open up their world a little bit, to see what else is out there for them,” she said. “And challenge their own inner assumptions that they may not be good enough or that they may not be smart enough to undertake something new.

“Change is always really difficult,” Minister Sawhney continued. “And we tend to make it really scary in our minds and we go down the worst-case scenarios about all the things that could possibly go wrong, but in reality those things never happen and things are always much more smoother than we could imagine.”

For women looking to make a change, commercial transportation is an industry looking for employees.

In October 2021, Trucking HR Canada released a Labour Market Information snapshot stating in the second quarter of 2021, there were more than 18,000 driver vacancies in Canada. The report said while that number is expected to “ease slightly” after 2021, it is still projected there will be an average driver vacancy of 28,000 jobs between 2021 and 2025.

There are a number of initiatives both industry and government are working on to get more people behind the wheel.

The Alberta Government’s Driving Back To Work Grant is one of those initiatives. Unemployed Albertans have access to grant funding to take Mandatory Entry Level (MELT) training to obtain their Class1 license. The grant opened to receive new applicants on Oct. 1, 2021.

Another option, Women Building Futures, has programming for unemployed or under-employed women, including a Class 1 Driver class. The eight-week class is offered in Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray and Lethbridge.

Commercial transportation offers a broad expanse of career opportunities, not just in driving, but in mechanics, administration, management and more, with opportunities to grow in a role, as experienced by Zoobkoff.

After being laid off in 2016, Zoobkoff was beginning to think it was time for a change in field when she got a call from Jason Fisher with XTL Transport.

“As soon as I started at XTL, something told me this was going to be my career, my forever place of employment,” Zoobkoff said. “And here we are five years later and I have gone from dispatching, to human resources and office administrator then human resources and safety admin\manager – which I did for 3.5 years. As the company continued to grow, we split the HR and Safety roles and I have now taken on the role of Safety Management for our Airdrie Terminal.”

Another burgeoning field in commercial transportation is that of Research and Innovation. Mike Harnett is president of Solaris Fatigue Management, a key partner in the AMTA-led Cooperative Truck Platooning System (CTPS) project.

“I always say, this career chose me, I didn’t choose it,” she said.

In her first job after graduating, Harnett focused on injury prevention with a Canadian railway company after a tragic incident with a freight train in which 23 people were killed.

“After an intense investigation, over 300 contributing factors were identified, but the key contributors to this tragic event was a combination of poor work culture and fatigued workers,” Harnett explained. “From there, I was sent to Washington DC and Michigan to learn about these emerging topics called Human Factors and Ergonomics, and leaders in Australia were beginning to share their initial studies in Fatigue Management. They were really in their infancy. I’ve been augmenting my education and learnings ever since.”

Mike Harnett Highway Safety

Mike Harnett poses with one of the two Cooperative Truck Platooning System trucks. Photo submitted.

The CTPS project is Canada’s first on road trail that introduces driver-assist technology to allow close-proximity following in platoon formation, reducing drag, and increasing fuel efficiency. Other sensors, radar and camera technology will send information between the trucks to ensure safe operations including active braking and acceleration systems responding to any acceleration and deceleration by the lead vehicle.

Over 175 closed track tests were conducted ensuring the platooning technology is safe for vehicle operators as well as the motoring public. CTPS will be unique in its study of human factor considerations and will be conducted during different seasons – including cold Alberta winters.

In her early years, Harnett said she often was the only woman in safety meetings or on industrial sites, “surrounded by men who had their own ideas of how things should be done. I was constantly wondering why we were doing things a certain way, but I was intimidated and felt I didn’t have a voice.”

She explained she found a strong mentor in her first boss who encouraged her to challenge the status quo and helped guide her through the “landmines”.

“I continue to challenge the status quo to this day; sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But we only learn from our mistakes,” Harnett explained. “So, if you’re passionate about what you do and want to be a leader, don’t just walk into the shallow end to test the waters. I’m talking about taking a three story skydive into the deep end of the pool with a cannonball finish. Be brave. Be fearless. And if you belly flop? Well, it will only hurt for a minute.”

The importance of having and/or being a good mentor is a sentiment echoed by Minister Sawhney. She explained it is incumbent on women in power to open doors for other women, and not just be a mentor, but a sponsor who takes that extra step to introduce women to opportunities that could help elevate their position.

“I will say something a little provocative here, and it’s not just for women, its for men too,” she said. “Sometimes when people reach a certain level, they are protective of the systems that allows them to get to that level and they don’t think about knocking down systemic barriers so other people can enter into that same arena.”

“I think part of being a strong leader, an influential leader, is making sure that you bring people along with you, you improve the situation of as many people as you can while you’re in your position.”

Original article by Kelsey Hipkin, Staff Writer, AMTA:  Feature: The 16 per cent – AMTA – Alberta Motor Transport Association

Workplace Fatigue

Workplace Fatigue

Workplace Fatigue:

Current Landscape and Future Considerations

 Very proud to have this report released! Thank you to all who contributed to our efforts, and a huge thank you to the CSA Group for tackling this issue. We are one step closer to providing all Canadian workplaces, both large and small, with a national standard on how to address fatigue. – Mike

With unprecedented levels of workplace fatigue attributed to modern day work, a national standard could help address the issue and improve workplaces in Canada (Toronto, November 20, 2019) –

Professional burnout is affecting a wide range of jobs, workplaces and industries, and there is no standard definition or management practice in place to address this issue. That’s the key finding from CSA Group’s latest research report Workplace Fatigue: Current Landscape and Future Considerations which was released today and finds that a common definition of workplace fatigue is currently lacking in Canada.
In 2019, for the first time, the World Health Organization recognized burnout as a medical diagnosis. However, without a standard definition of what workplace fatigue means in Canada, it’s difficult to say how pervasive the problem is.
CSA Group’s research finds that while a number of industries in Canada, including aviation, rail, marine, nuclear, oil and gas, healthcare and defense do recognize fatigue as an issue for workers, there is no comprehensive definition of workplace fatigue, what causes it or how it may affect performance.

“Our research has identified that there is certainly an opportunity for standards that address workplace fatigue to make a real and positive difference to workers in this country,” said Mary Cianchetti, President of Standards, CSA Group. “What we’ve found is there is a need to support the management of workplace fatigue in Canada for the health and safety of Canadian workers. CSA Group could help to address this gap with a national standard.”

In some workplaces, the potential consequences of fatigue can be a matter of life and death. Workers in paramedic services face unique health and safety issues on a daily basis such as shift work and extended work days, as well as periods of intense psychological stress or trauma. That’s why the Paramedic Association of Canada is currently working with CSA Group to develop a national standard on fatigue risk management for first responders, in parallel with this new research.

“Paramedics do a job that can be grueling both physically and emotionally, and workplace fatigue is an issue we cannot ignore. We know that the impact of fatigue on first responders can affect neurocognitive performance, which in turn can endanger not only their own personal health and safety, but also the health and safety of their fellow responders and the public they serve,” said Pierre Poirier, Executive Director, Paramedic Association of Canada. “This research identifies that a gap does exist in Canada when it comes to how fatigue is being addressed in the workplace. We are pleased to already be working with CSA Group to develop a standard for fatigue risk management for first responders aimed at reducing exposure to fatigue-related hazards and protecting both paramedics and the people they help every day.”
In 2018, CSA Group introduced a psychological health and safety standard to address the specific needs of paramedic service organizations. The creation of a standard for workplace fatigue could address gaps in the existing legislation to protect the health and livelihood of all Canadian workers, regardless of where they work.

For more information on the Workplace Fatigue: Current Landscape and Future Considerations research report, click here.

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: Sleep FAQs Part 2

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: Sleep FAQs Part 2

In my previous blog, we reviewed frequently asked questions I get at conferences, such as why we get up to pee in the middle of the night, what my dreams really mean, and how to reclaim sleep after bringing a baby into the mix. In Part 2, we delve into the impact of technology, sleep disorders, prescription meds and of course, non-prescription sleep aids. 

1. I’ve heard looking at my smart phone can be bad for my sleep. How come? 

All of our smart technology is driven by blue-enriched LED light. Within the full spectrum of light, there is a particular blue stream that has a direct effect on our ability to sleep by suppressing the production of Melatonin and affecting our circadian drive. Melatonin is our natural sleep hormone. It’s what helps us fall asleep and stay asleep. 

During daytime hours, blue light exposure (including sunlight) is excellent. It can enhance our moods, improve focus and concentration, and actually help us sleep better at night. However, it’s all about timing and any night time exposure (after the sun has gone down) is strongly discouraged. Since the impact of light is affected by distance, small handheld devices like smart phones, e-readers, IPads, tablets and laptops are more damaging due to their proximity to your eyes than a big screen TV across the room. 

While many devices have dimming features to ease eye strain, that is not the same as a blue light filter and will do nothing to prevent the suppression of melatonin. Most of our newer devices have built in blue-light filters to reduce this damaging effect. Check if your device has one. Go into settings, display, and then look for either “night shift” or “blue light filter” to activate it. 

If you’re a day worker, use the automated “sunrise to sunset” feature. If you’re a shift worker, you may want to select specific times for it to activate. Your screen will turn a pink or orange-ish hue and greatly improve the chances of you getting a restful sleep. If your device doesn’t have a blue light filter, there are plenty of free blue light filter apps available online. 

2. I’ve heard you can buy Melatonin. Do you recommend it? 

Here’s what we know. It has been heavily marketed in recent years as a safe way to help get sleep, but synthetic melatonin is not the same as what your body produces, and does not take you through the sleep cycle like natural melatonin. Many side effects have been noted, including excessive grogginess the next day after you use it, upset stomach, and very vivid, horrific nightmares. It is also not recommended for people who have a history of depression, as it can enhance these feelings, or a history of seizures. 

Recent scientific literature is advising that you restrict the use of Melatonin on a temporary basis, such as when you’re travelling across time zones, to help offset jetlag, but not to use it on a regular basis as a sleep aid. Not everybody produces, or requires, the same amount of melatonin, and the timing of taking it is just as important as the amount. For example, some need it earlier in the day than others. As for parents giving it to children, there simply isn’t enough long term research on the effects of children, but given what we know about the effects on adults, why take the risk of giving them nightmares or affecting the quality of their sleep. 

If you suspect your lacking melatonin, a safer and gentler alternative is the natural supplement called L-Tryphtophan. It is the precursor needed for the body to produce serotonin in the gut, which ultimately is synthesized into our own natural version of melatonin. 

3. How do I know if I have a sleep disorder? 

Very simply, if you wake up unrefreshed and struggle to stay alert throughout the day, you could have a sleep disorder. If it takes you longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep, and you wake up several times during the night and can’t fall back asleep, you could have a sleep disorder. Most importantly, if someone tells you that you snore loudly, or has heard you gasp or choke during the night, you could have a sleep disorder. In this case, you may be suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). 

OSA is becoming more and more prevalent and is probably the most dangerous. It’s the result of something blocking our airway while we sleep. We literally stop breathing. When it repeatedly lasts for more than 10 seconds, you officially have OSA. This means we starve both the heart and the brain of oxygen, and this leads to all kinds of other significant health issues including cardiovascular disease and stroke. It also means we don’t get through all of the sleep stages that we need to because every time we gasp for air, it wakes us up and kicks us out of the sleep cycle, thus preventing us from getting the recuperative sleep we need. You’ll be constantly exhausted, unable to focus, and emotionally drained. 

While obesity is a prime contributor to the onset of OSA (a size 17 neck for men and 16 for women is a primary risk factor), that doesn’t mean other people can’t have airway obstructions. Adults and kids alike can have enlarged tonsils or adenoids that block the airway. A narrow palette with a wide tongue could collapse back into the throat during sleep. Sleeping on your back is also a known cause. Heavy smokers, drinkers and those using sedatives are at high risk, as they all cause the muscles of the throat and tongue to relax and collapse on themselves. 

It has been reported that 1 in 4 Canadian adults have symptoms of OSA. If you think this may be you, book an appointment at a sleep clinic to get checked out. Depending on the severity, you may be outfitted with either a dental appliance (minor OSA) or a CPAP machine (severe OSA). A CPAP machine is one that provides continuous positive air pressure to ensure the airway stays open while you sleep and is the most effective method for combatting OSA. Check if your benefit plan covers the cost of these devices. 

4. What sleep medication would you recommend? 

In short? None. And not only because I’m not a Doctor. Both prescription and non-prescriptions medications (including melatonin) disrupt your natural sleep cycle so they don’t replicate normal sleep patterns. Alcohol needs to be included here, as many people turn to is as a sleep aid. 

Prescriptive medications (benzodiazepenes) are highly addictive and their use should be limited to being a last resort and only under the strict guidance of your doctor. However, even over-the-counter meds can create high tolerances and come with other side-effects. More importantly, taking medication only treats the symptoms, not the problem. Stress is a common cause of sleep disturbance, in addition to those previously mentioned. You need to address the heart of the matter for the best results! 

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: Sleep FAQs Part 2

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: Sleep FAQs Part 2

In my previous blog, we reviewed frequently asked questions I get at conferences, such as why we get up to pee in the middle of the night, what my dreams really mean, and how to reclaim sleep after bringing a baby into the mix. In Part 2, we delve into the impact of technology, sleep disorders, prescription meds and of course, non-prescription sleep aids. 

1. I’ve heard looking at my smart phone can be bad for my sleep. How come? 

All of our smart technology is driven by blue-enriched LED light. Within the full spectrum of light, there is a particular blue stream that has a direct effect on our ability to sleep by suppressing the production of Melatonin and affecting our circadian drive. Melatonin is our natural sleep hormone. It’s what helps us fall asleep and stay asleep. 

During daytime hours, blue light exposure (including sunlight) is excellent. It can enhance our moods, improve focus and concentration, and actually help us sleep better at night. However, it’s all about timing and any night time exposure (after the sun has gone down) is strongly discouraged. Since the impact of light is affected by distance, small handheld devices like smart phones, e-readers, IPads, tablets and laptops are more damaging due to their proximity to your eyes than a big screen TV across the room. 

While many devices have dimming features to ease eye strain, that is not the same as a blue light filter and will do nothing to prevent the suppression of melatonin. Most of our newer devices have built in blue-light filters to reduce this damaging effect. Check if your device has one. Go into settings, display, and then look for either “night shift” or “blue light filter” to activate it. 

If you’re a day worker, use the automated “sunrise to sunset” feature. If you’re a shift worker, you may want to select specific times for it to activate. Your screen will turn a pink or orange-ish hue and greatly improve the chances of you getting a restful sleep. If your device doesn’t have a blue light filter, there are plenty of free blue light filter apps available online. 

2. I’ve heard you can buy Melatonin. Do you recommend it? 

Here’s what we know. It has been heavily marketed in recent years as a safe way to help get sleep, but synthetic melatonin is not the same as what your body produces, and does not take you through the sleep cycle like natural melatonin. Many side effects have been noted, including excessive grogginess the next day after you use it, upset stomach, and very vivid, horrific nightmares. It is also not recommended for people who have a history of depression, as it can enhance these feelings, or a history of seizures. 

Recent scientific literature is advising that you restrict the use of Melatonin on a temporary basis, such as when you’re travelling across time zones, to help offset jetlag, but not to use it on a regular basis as a sleep aid. Not everybody produces, or requires, the same amount of melatonin, and the timing of taking it is just as important as the amount. For example, some need it earlier in the day than others. As for parents giving it to children, there simply isn’t enough long term research on the effects of children, but given what we know about the effects on adults, why take the risk of giving them nightmares or affecting the quality of their sleep. 

If you suspect your lacking melatonin, a safer and gentler alternative is the natural supplement called L-Tryphtophan. It is the precursor needed for the body to produce serotonin in the gut, which ultimately is synthesized into our own natural version of melatonin. 

3. How do I know if I have a sleep disorder? 

Very simply, if you wake up unrefreshed and struggle to stay alert throughout the day, you could have a sleep disorder. If it takes you longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep, and you wake up several times during the night and can’t fall back asleep, you could have a sleep disorder. Most importantly, if someone tells you that you snore loudly, or has heard you gasp or choke during the night, you could have a sleep disorder. In this case, you may be suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). 

OSA is becoming more and more prevalent and is probably the most dangerous. It’s the result of something blocking our airway while we sleep. We literally stop breathing. When it repeatedly lasts for more than 10 seconds, you officially have OSA. This means we starve both the heart and the brain of oxygen, and this leads to all kinds of other significant health issues including cardiovascular disease and stroke. It also means we don’t get through all of the sleep stages that we need to because every time we gasp for air, it wakes us up and kicks us out of the sleep cycle, thus preventing us from getting the recuperative sleep we need. You’ll be constantly exhausted, unable to focus, and emotionally drained. 

While obesity is a prime contributor to the onset of OSA (a size 17 neck for men and 16 for women is a primary risk factor), that doesn’t mean other people can’t have airway obstructions. Adults and kids alike can have enlarged tonsils or adenoids that block the airway. A narrow palette with a wide tongue could collapse back into the throat during sleep. Sleeping on your back is also a known cause. Heavy smokers, drinkers and those using sedatives are at high risk, as they all cause the muscles of the throat and tongue to relax and collapse on themselves. 

It has been reported that 1 in 4 Canadian adults have symptoms of OSA. If you think this may be you, book an appointment at a sleep clinic to get checked out. Depending on the severity, you may be outfitted with either a dental appliance (minor OSA) or a CPAP machine (severe OSA). A CPAP machine is one that provides continuous positive air pressure to ensure the airway stays open while you sleep and is the most effective method for combatting OSA. Check if your benefit plan covers the cost of these devices. 

4. What sleep medication would you recommend? 

In short? None. And not only because I’m not a Doctor. Both prescription and non-prescriptions medications (including melatonin) disrupt your natural sleep cycle so they don’t replicate normal sleep patterns. Alcohol needs to be included here, as many people turn to is as a sleep aid. 

Prescriptive medications (benzodiazepenes) are highly addictive and their use should be limited to being a last resort and only under the strict guidance of your doctor. However, even over-the-counter meds can create high tolerances and come with other side-effects. More importantly, taking medication only treats the symptoms, not the problem. Stress is a common cause of sleep disturbance, in addition to those previously mentioned. You need to address the heart of the matter for the best results! 

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