The research of a University of NSW academic says that strong actions and policies of industry managers have helped lower heavy vehicle fatalities.
According to Lori Mooren, the safety of trucks lies in the psychology and business culture of the company.
In a post on Fullyloaded.com.au the work of academic Lori Mooren said that strong safety policies and approach can help avoid a natural tendency to treat professional driving different to personal driving.
Mooren is a senior research fellow in transport and road safety research. Her work was partly funded by Zurich Insurance Australia.
She says that trucking managers who have addressed the issue of safety have had positive results, resulting in a decline in the heavy vehicle fatality rate over the past decade.
Mooren stated in relation to the findings of her research:
“Heavy vehicle fatalities have decreased by 32 per cent over the past decade,” she says.
“The trucking industry is one where employers do know that there are serious risks to their employees, to their cargo and to their business in using the road.
“They have been a lot more proactive than most employers in managing risks of using the road.”
Transport managers need to be aware that people are 50 per cent more likely to crash in a company vehicle than a private vehicle, according to Mooren. She says that people don’t treat vehicles well if they don’t own them. Mooren explained that people are more distracted when travelling for work which combined with other factors associated with work like fatigue, leads to crashes. She explains:
“When they are travelling for work, they are often doing things like talking on a mobile phone, or they are in a hurry.
“The combination of distractions, speed and sometimes fatigue, are some of the reasons.”
Mooren warns employers that they can influence the safety of vehicles strongly and cites the example of BHP Billiton. Last year BHP Billiton started buying passenger vehicles only with five-star safety NCAP ratings.
Ultimately companies need to recognise that the “safety culture” of a business can affect the crash rates of the company’s vehicles.
Measuring a company’s commitment to safety can be a more difficult task. According to Mooren one of the ways we can measure the company’s safety culture is the perception that employees have that their employers are committed to workplace safety above other objectives.
She went on to explain:
“It’s a demonstration of clear commitment and a sense ‘safely is the way we do things around here’.
“When you have that culture of safety, then crash rates are likely to be lower.”
Another problem identified is those companies that don’t recognise their role in road safety. According to Mooren, companies who have a nonchalant attitude towards safety, because it is someone else’s problem aren’t “owning the problem”.
Mooren also revealed another significant factor in truck safety – the pay system for drivers. She says that drivers who aren’t paid for waiting time, loading and unloading are at risk of fatigue which can lead to reduced road safety.
At the moment the academic is analysing data from the third study in the program of research to develop a safety management system for heavy vehicle transport operators.
What Transport Operators Can Take Away from the Research
Mooren wants operators to recognise that managers who assume responsibility for safety management and take driver’s input into consideration when making safety decisions actually have lower incident rates.