The road transport industry, which includes road freight and road passenger transport, has been named as a national workplace health and safety priority. That’s due to a high fatality rate – 583 in the 12 years to 2015.
At the crux of the issue are careless or deliberate human behaviours causing more than 90% of fatal and serious crashes, says the International Safety Forum. As well, the most frequent work-related physical injuries are sprains and strains, and diseases of the circulatory system. However, for truck drivers aged under 39, suicide is the second-highest cause of death.
So how can road transport companies reduce their risks when it comes to safety on site, on the road, or in the office?
Tip 1: A safety-first culture
Your starting point is checking if your trucking company has a safety-first culture and, if not, build it to make safety a primary business function. Your chief and management must be involved, so it flows throughout the organisation.
Consider developing a ‘ready reckoner’ that’s updated with your company’s near misses, incidents, accidents, and injuries each week. Ideally, it should give you insights into how you’re tracking for the calendar year compared to previous years. Distribute this information so line managers can discuss it with staff, including drivers, inviting updates and solutions from all staff. These insights help make your safety manual a live document. The ready reckoner is one tool to help managers spread a safety culture.
Don’t assume recruits will know your conventions and best practices. When you induct new employees with a formal safety training session, back it up with a manual they can easily access. The idea is to encourage all staff and management to look at their work through the lens of safety every day and know it’s their business as well. This also helps build loyalty, which is an issue with the shortage of truck drivers across the country.
Tip 2: Transport safety tools
Installing a GPS tracking system can save operational costs. It helps monitor for prolonged idling, speeding, over-revving during gear changes, and prolonged idling, such as using the air conditioner while parked.
Mobile learning will also help their knowledge stick once they settle into their role. There are also useful free apps such as Western Australia’s one to decode dangerous goods on road transport. Send staff regular safety alerts about pre-checks, seatbelts, keeping to load limits, etc.
Tip 3: Telematics giving insights into driver behaviour
Installing telematics devices in your company’s vehicles will deliver safety benefits. That’s because the technology increased the chances those breaking the rules would be caught and punished for illegal behaviour. The benefits of installing telematics include collecting data that can help:
Help monitor driving hours to curb driver fatigue and exhaustion
Minimise potential collisions. On average, these are reduced by 10% for fatalities, serious and light injuries
Lessen risky behaviour, so the risk and severity of accidents and repair shrink by up to a quarter.
Recently, the Federal Government launched its national freight data hub prototype. It’s a data visualisation tool that uses telematics to help freight carriers track crucial supply chains and major truck routes across the country. The hub also gives timely updates on traffic volumes, road conditions, congestion, and rest area usage across Australia.
Tip 4: More change on the horizon
Internet-connected vehicles that can share data inside and outside themselves are a step towards autonomous vehicles being the norm on our roads. For updates on this tech and future transport, visit the IMOVE co-operative research centre that’s doing applied research in transportation and mobility.
An Australian business recently went into a 1,500km driverless truck trial from Arizona to Oklahoma City in the USA. There were a couple of humans in the truck who drove briefly at the start and finish, but the truck and TuSimple tech did the rest of the work. Researchers suggest self-driving cars will be safer than conventional ones, because human error causes most accidents. And this tech has its own security protocols, so there’s no risk of becoming the type of autonomous trucks seen in the Stephen King movie, Maximum Overdrive.
So, future truck fleets could be autonomous and electric, with several major car manufacturers announcing they’ll no longer make internal combustion engines. That means, over time, existing trucks could lose value, be harder to fix, and the safety technology in them will date.
Tip 5: Minimising your risks
While technology is promising, it brings its own risks, including cyber-hacking and tweaking Australian conditions, such as errant wildlife. Your transport company faces not only technological, but legislative and economic risks. There are also more extreme weather conditions. As well, research shows truckies are facing a mental health crisis, as this ABC News report explains. It’s based on an ongoing Monash University study, which also offers insights for trucking companies to promote health and wellbeing for truck drivers.
Could your risk management strategy be more holistic, taking into consideration those and the all-important human factors? Your business might already be using sector-specific risk management software.
Talk to us for insights into minimising your business risks through a customised package of policies. Popular policies trucking companies adopt are product and public liability, property and fire, business vehicle, general property, and workers’ compensation. We’ll help you get on the road to a transport risk management solution that’s a perfect fit for you.