Despite efforts to improve heavy vehicle safety, an analysis of U.S. crashes shows that heavy vehicle crash rates continue to rise. In 2017, large trucks were involved in 6% more fatal crashes per million miles compared to 2016. Although there are a lot of heavy vehicle fleets that have successfully improved their safety records, unfortunately, there are thousands more that are struggling to implement effective strategies to reduce their crashes. Researchers from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) have found that one of the best ways for a heavy vehicle fleet to reduce crashes is to examine their safety culture.
Safety culture has remained a popular topic in the safety literature since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986; however, the exact definition of safety culture has been widely debated. Perhaps safety culture can best be thought of as a “lens” through which employees see how an organization feels about safety. In other words, a fleet’s safety culture can be assessed by the shared beliefs, values, and attitudes all their employees have toward safety. Research has found that there is a strong connection between these shared beliefs, values, and attitudes and a carrier’s actual safety record. In other words, a fleet’s safety culture is the underlying foundation for all efforts to improve safety. Without a positive safety culture, a fleet is going to a hard time seeing sustained success in reducing crashes.
All employees have a role in creating and sustaining a safety culture that discourages risky behaviors, regardless of their position in the organization. Management has the responsibility to create recruitment and hiring policies, training programs, vehicle maintenance schedules, and practices to encourage safe driving and discourage unsafe driving. Additionally, management needs to invest in technology and vehicles to demonstrate a commitment to safety. On the other hand, drivers have the individual knowledge, skills, abilities, motivations, beliefs, and attitudes towards at-risk driving behaviors that can directly influence whether a crash occurs.
What can your fleet do to improve your safety culture and successfully reduce your crashes? We know that creating a positive safety culture is not easy and does not happen overnight. Instead, it takes deliberate actions over a long time. A recent study conducted by Matt Camden, Senior Research Associate, in VTTI’s Center for Truck and Bus Safety, set out to identify exactly what fleets did to improve their safety culture and significantly reduce crashes. Camden will present these results and share fleets’ recommendations at the 2019 Fleet Safety Conference. This session “Proven strategies to reduce crashes: Results from nine carriers that have significantly improved safety” convenes at the Fleet Safety Conference on Wednesday, October 30, 2019, at 9:45am.