Review of best practice road safety initiatives in the corporate and/or business environment

Monash University Accident Research Centre - Report #166 - 2000

Authors: N. Haworth, C. Tingvall & N. Kowadlo

Full report in .pdf format [550KB]

Abstract:

This project investigated the potential to introduce road safety based initiatives in the corporate environment. The report includes:

  • a literature review
  • a review of European research and programs
  • interviews with government and corporate representatives
  • a review of the occupational health and safety legal perspective

From the literature review it was concluded that the fleet safety initiatives which have potential to be effective are:

  • selecting safer vehicles
  • some particular driver training and education programs
  • incentives (not rewards)
  • company safety programs in companies with an overall safety emphasis.

European research and programs varies widely from the incorporation of fleet safety into quality assurance of transport in Sweden to the use of driver training and driver discussion groups in other jurisdictions. In Europe, as in Australia and other parts of the world, evaluation of the effectiveness of fleet safety initiatives is rarely undertaken.

The current OHS legislation in Victoria allows considerable opportunity for promotion of best practice injury prevention measures. However, the lack of regulations specifically targeting vehicle and driver safety in the occupational setting means that enforcement is only relevant to a small range of fleet safety problems.

Executive Summary

In response to an increasing awareness of the role of work-related driving in crashes and the related costs, many private and government organisations have developed programs to improve fleet safety. While many of these programs have focused on the management and driving of company vehicles, some have taken a broader approach. These programs have sought to prevent road trauma and the associated costs of absence from work resulting from non-work-related crashes.

Recently, the Corporate and Fleet Safety Working Party was formed, with representation from VicRoads, Transport Accident Commission, Victoria Police and the RACV. It reports to the Road Safety Reference Group and its long-term aim is to implement a program (or programs) that is likely to be well accepted in the business environment and which will reduce casualty crashes.

The Corporate and Fleet Safety Working Party commissioned this project to investigate the potential to introduce road safety based initiatives in the corporate environment. The scope of the project is limited to light commercial vehicles and cars, including taxis and rental cars.

This report defines fleet vehicles widely as vehicles over which a business has some degree of influence in their selection and operation. It is assumed that the degree of influence is likely to decrease as the type of vehicle moves from the fleet towards the private end of the continuum. The distinction between fleet and corporate road safety programs becomes somewhat blurred when there is considerable private use of fleet vehicles.

Literature review

The literature review identified a large number of references to fleet safety in industry magazines and relatively few references in the scientific literature. There were numerous claims of likely or possible crash savings resulting from fleet safety programs. However, the number of initiatives which had been evaluated were few.

From the literature review it can be concluded that the fleet safety initiatives which have potential to be effective are:

  • selecting safer vehicles
  • some particular driver training and education programs (e.g. Hertz study by National Safety Council in Kedjidjian, 1995; the Swedish Televerket Study)
  • incentives (not rewards)
  • company safety programs in companies with an overall safety emphasis.

Safety considerations may influence which level of car is purchased within a manufacturer's range (or which options are selected). Vehicle selection is generally a choice of the safest possible car within reasonably tight constraints, rather than the safest possible car on the market.

There was very little literature available about the effects of fleet safety programs on safety of non-work-related driving by employees. The restricted nature of data collection undertaken may mean that employers know little about this - and state accident databases are not suited to monitoring this.

In general, the literature review demonstrated the need to tailor programs to the types of vehicles, types of use and role that driving plays in the employment of different employees of the organisation. The critical role of management interest and support was emphasised in a number of studies.

Fleet safety appears to be emphasised in organisations where there is a strong general safety ethos. These organisations are likely to have better incident data monitoring systems that allow them to identify the magnitude of the safety problem comprised by fleet safety.

European research and programs

The Swedish Televerket study suggests that group discussion meetings may be as effective as off-road driver training in reducing crashes (with considerable cost savings).

In the Swedish approach, fleet safety is part of quality management of the transport component of the enterprise (whether government or private). Quality assurance of transport aims to ensure that people and goods arrive at the right place, at the right time and in the right way (i.e. without danger of serious injury or damage to the goods or the environment in connection with the transport). Thus there is a linking of road safety and environmental outcomes. There is an emphasis on ensuring the quality of outsourced transport as well as the use of owned vehicles.

The Swedish approach to vehicle safety in fleets focuses more on the rated crashworthiness of vehicles, rather than a specific list of safety features. In this way it differs from the general approach in Australia and the United States identified elsewhere in the report.

The Swedish example suggests that a possible approach to occupant protection for Victorian road safety agencies is to focus on a market-driven approach and target fleets - particularly the government fleet.

In France, there has been a program to increase the involvement of private companies in road safety related to their use of vehicles. Agreements have been drawn up between government, insurance companies, the national occupational health fund and volunteer companies. Employees of the companies form groups interested in road safety and sign a charter.

The programs focus on motivating companies to undertake road safety programs by increasing the knowledge of the cost of road crashes to the company and by decreasing workers compensation and vehicle insurance premiums if programs are implemented. Some of the programs have concentrated on drink driving because of its large role in both work- and non-work-related road crashes in France.

The German Traffic Safety Council has promoted the establishment of voluntary safety circles in which employees from the company vehicle fleet meet together to discuss critical points and devise solutions under the leadership of an experienced moderator. It also runs a one-day training course in "Safe, Economical and Environmentally Friendly Driving".

In the United Kingdom, various measures have been implemented to improve road safety within organisations. They include driver training programs, incentive schemes, penalties, accident reviews, driver monitoring systems and driver feedback procedures. It is unclear whether these measures have had an effect.

Interviews with government and corporate representatives

Some companies are changing the content of driver training programs away from improving driving skills to improving driver attitudes and reducing risks. There was relatively little emphasis on driver management. Sometimes this may have occurred because fleet management is a centralised function and there is little direct contact with the drivers.

The move to maximise resale values has led to programs to take better care of cars and also consideration of the resale implications of some safety features (this can possibly encourage airbag fitting).

In fleet management, there is a general emphasis on counting accidents (particularly "preventable" accidents) and repair costs, rather than injuries. This may be because injury accidents are much less common than property damage accidents. Many organisations do not appear to count the hidden costs of crashes (e.g. lost time and productivity).

Many fleet safety programs are undertaken in response to a period of poor road safety performance or in response to the interest of someone in management. There are very few evaluations undertaken, even by best practice companies. Benchmarking is one of the few examples of evaluation, but benchmarking only hints at why some organisations may have lower crash rates or costs than others.

Review of occupational health and safety legal perspective

The examination of the OHS legislation has shown that vehicles can be considered to be workplaces (on public roads) and plant (when not on public roads). Thus there is a requirement to ensure that the vehicles and the ways in which they are used provide, so far as practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.

The current OHS legislation in Victoria allows considerable opportunity for promotion of ideal best practice injury prevention measures. However, the lack of regulations specifically targeting vehicle and driver safety in the occupational setting means that enforcement is only relevant to a small range of fleet safety problems. Thus, promotion of improvements to fleet safety should be considered the appropriate approach in the short-term, accompanied by encouragement of longer-term legislative changes.

Sponsoring Organisations: This project was commissioned by the Fleet and Corporate Road Safety Working Party which comprises representatives from: Roads Corporation (VicRoads); Royal Automobile Club of Transport Accident Commission; Victoria (RACV) Ltd; Victoria Police