Parents will take care to teach their children how to cross a road safely. How many transport operators are confident their trucks can do the same? Without a conscious commitment to enhancing safety within the organisation, trucking fleets will go the way of the dodo. What’s needed is a well-defined Safety Plan, well communicated and rigorously implemented, writes Paul Collings, who discovers a ‘road map’ for such a plan from the Land of the Long White Cloud.
Road safety is everybody’s business and despite the fact that road accidents claim over a million lives every year globally, it is only in recent years that world governments have begun to join forces in the fight against what Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes as “an epidemic with a vaccine that comes in the form of simple life-saving measures”.
In today’s tough economic climate, transport operators can ill afford to shoulder the heavy risks associated with poorly maintained rigs and wayward/incompetent drivers. Every effort must be made to instill a ‘culture of safety’ within the operation to not only help prevent accidents but also to reduce operational risk and costs.
Adopting a Safety Policy
Behind all successful businesses lies a distinct set of policies and procedures that are strictly adhered to by all employees. With management communicating the value of these disciplines to all involved, common purpose is achieved and everyone benefits. While these basic management principles exist within our local trucking industry, it is all too clear that much is overlooked when it comes to the promotion of safe driving practices.
By adopting a Safety Policy, transport managers can proactively reduce operational risk and realise a multitude of benefits. Apart from saving lives and improving their bottom line, operators will enhance their organisation’s reputation, improve workplace morale and wellbeing, comply with labour law, reduce the company’s overall environmental impact and assist in putting the fleet on a ‘preferred supplier list’ for organisations that will only contract from companies with safe driving policies or good environmental practices.
The tenets of such a Safely Policy (based on a booklet published by the New Zealand Department of Land Transport), revolve around vehicle and driver fitness, ensuring both are adequately equipped to operate as safely as possible.
To determine what should be included in a Safety Policy requires some preparation. Those responsible for drafting the policy should: Identify the types of vehicles being used and note some of their safety features; identify how drivers use these vehicles, looking at driving hours, loads carried, etc; identify the level of driver licensing and training; analyse all crashes, vehicle accidents, damage, personal injury, near-hit incidents and traffic offences – where and when these occur, and what the causes are; find out how much accidents and infringements cost the organisation; and find out how much is spent on fuel.
To ensure the Safety Policy has lasting effect, top management must involve all decision makers within the organisation, be they fleet managers, human resources officers or health and safety managers.
To help determine the priorities and the focus needed in the policy, these people should provide information on both vehicles and drivers such as: What types of vehicles are used; whether they are owned, leased or hired; what they are used for; the frequency of vehicle checks, maintenance and services; the safety features on the vehicles; aftermarket fitments (CD/cassette players, airconditioning etc.); age of the vehicles; and the annual mileage of each vehicle.
Input on driver behaviour should include: How long they spend driving (open road or urban); cellphone use when driving; age of drivers and whether they have valid licenses for the vehicles they drive; levels of driver training (driver self-management or defensive driving courses); the nature of the loads carried; the quality of load securement skills (and equipment); policy on passenger carrying; level of safety belt compliance; frequency of speeding or other infringements; and, the routes being driven.
Analyse crash history
Pinpointing the causes of accidents will help focus the policy. Operators should note the following: How many accidents occur each year; at what times of the day these accidents occurred; where they happened (e.g. open road, urban areas, intersections etc.); the causes of each accident and who was at fault - did driver behaviour cause the crash or lead to injury due to drink-driving, speeding, fatigue, not wearing safety belts, failing to give way etc; were poor driving maneuvers the cause? If so, driver training may be needed.
Know the costs
Accidents don’t come cheap and operators should bear in all costs associated with accidents, including: insurance excesses and premiums; repairs, replacement and vehicle maintenance; lost sales and productivity; sick leave; speeding fines (if paid on behalf of staff); payments to third parties; hiring casual staff to fill in for injured staff; replacing staff if driving infringements lead to their dismissal.
Writing the policy
When it comes to actually drafting a Safety Policy, fleet owners and managers should include nonnegotiable requirements such as: Choosing vehicles with a high safety rating; maintaining them properly; creating safer drivers through training and education; addressing driver fatigue, distraction, speed and drinkdriving, and promoting the use of safety belts and other safety features.
A good Safety Policy will include additional elements that all help make a ‘best-practice safety blueprint’ such as: a focus on fuel efficiency; employee incentives for safe driving behaviour; the incorporation of the safe driving policy into the company health and safety policy; encouraging healthy eating, sleep, work and exercise habits that assist safe driving.
In many situations, safe driving comes down to attitude. You can provide safer vehicles, give your drivers practical and technical skills and set up systems to reduce fatigue. But at the end of the day, your drivers must have the right attitude to driving.
Motivate staff to do what they know they should by: clearly setting out staff and management responsibilities, the rationale for these and the consequences of not adhering to them; providing incentives; not paying speeding fines for your drivers; explaining which behaviours are not condoned and why; putting your policy in writing – even write it into your organisation’s code of conduct; discussing road safety in regular staff meetings; making your policy part of the company rules – not guidelines.
At the end of the day, no two fleet operations are the same and what with all the challenges facing local truckers, a Safety Plan may seem like a ‘nice to have’. This is not the right attitude to adopt. Quite simply, safety means less lives lost and more money in the bank – it’s that simple.
2009 FleetWatch magazine and FleetWatch On-Line.
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