A recent study has found a strong link between fleets that invest in advanced safety...

A recent study has found a strong link between fleets that invest in advanced safety technologies and emphasize company-wide safety culture with greatly improved safety performance outcomes.

Photo via Virginia Tech

A recent study has found a link between fleets that invest in advanced safety technologies and emphasize safety culture and greatly improved safety performance outcomes.

The study, conducted by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence, working with property casualty insurance provider Travelers, found that six out of nine carriers reported that building a strong safety culture and adopting at least one new advanced safety technology had contributed to improved safety outcomes.

The report focused on several trucking companies who were classified as high risk by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and had managed to change course and experience significantly improved safety outcomes. These fleets had reduced both the number and severity of crashes and improved safety scores. Interviewers asked these carriers about their safety improvement strategies in order to identify best practices that other high-risk fleets can implement.

By developing a well-rounded safety culture, a majority of the fleets had seen a substantial reduction in FMCSA reportable crashes. One of the interviewed fleets that listed safety culture as its top strategy reported a 75.6% reduction in preventable crashes, according to the study.

The fleet had noticed a trend of increases crash rates back in 2011 and was falling below its own internal safety goals. To reverse the trend, the carrier hired a new directory of safety to overhaul its safety programs. The fleet made other important changes, including implementing better driver training, changing hiring policies and building a strong safety culture.

Other examples from interviewed fleets included maintaining an open door policy for drivers to discuss safety-related issues with management, sharing carrier-wide indicators with managers and drivers and informing drivers of the carrier’s safety culture during orientation.

Another key change the interviewed fleets made was adopting at least one advanced safety technology. One of the fleets in the study reported a 56% decrease in preventable, rear-end collision after equipping its trucks with automatic emergency braking systems. Some fleet s adopted video-based safety monitoring systems, lane departure warnings, blind spot detection and stability control systems.

Of all the strategies that carriers discussed, the majority could be characterized as pre-crash countermeasures. Examples included proactive actions taken by carriers that focused on the management culture and leadership buy-in on safety, showing the value of a top-down approach to safety.

As many as 69 strategies were discussed in the study, reinforcing the fact that there was no single fix safety improvement. Every carrier reported making multiple, comprehensive adjustments that required each to change management practices, implement new technologies, improve training, and affect hiring, scheduling and maintenance procedures.

“Our findings were largely consistent in terms of the countermeasures the nine carriers viewed as influential factors in their improved safety records,” said Matthew Camden, the project’s principal investigator and senior research associate for VTTI’s Center for Truck and Bus Safety. “Overall, the carriers attributed their success not to one ‘single fix’ solution but rather the fact that they adopted a comprehensive approach to safety culture and practices within their companies, specifically the adoption of advanced safety technologies.”

The extensive full report is available online

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