Why risk it? Train your drivers to be safer drivers
It has four pedestrian crossings, 16 lanes of traffic, four service roads and dozens of traffic lights. It’s an intersection that tens of thousands of vehicles use every single day. But that day, it was the driver of an international power tool company that hit a 14-year-old girl, and ended her life. As if the case wasn’t tragic enough, there were suggestions of a hit-and-run, and the company name was splashed about the media. It was every employer’s nightmare. And it might have been preventable.
Every year, road-related health and safety incidents cost Australian companies $500 million. Out of all the worker-related fatalities, 38% are related to vehicles and driving. And compared to other types of accidents, road-related ones tend to pose the biggest threat in terms of individual harm — injuries from a crash are simply worse than any other type of common workplace injury.
And if those statistics weren’t bad enough, it’s an international problem that goes beyond the workplace. Road traffic injuries are the eighth leading cause of death globally, and the leading cause of death for young people aged 15–29. More than a million people die each year on the roads globally, and the cost of dealing with the consequences of these road traffic crashes runs into billions of dollars.
Something an employee commonly does at home on the couch or in everyday life can be deadly when present behind the wheel. Distraction, inattention, fatigue, mobile phone use, substance use, and even just rushing — are all much riskier when they’re piloting a few tons of steel at high speeds. And yet, the risk behind the wheel still appears low, employees are likely to take shortcuts, and severe consequences do occur.
Employers can no longer afford to get by doing the bare minimum. Legislation dictates that responsibility for employees in road-related situations rests with the employer. This includes those who drive any vehicle for work purposes, those who simply shift cars from time to time, and even sometimes those driving between work and home. After-work drinks before driving home? Employer’s responsibility. A driver that is so fatigued after a shift that he is at risk while driving home? Employer’s responsibility. An employee who uses their own car for work, drives a courier van, uses a pool car, or drives long distance? You guessed it, employer’s responsibility.
CHANGES TO THE LAW
Amendments to the Heavy Vehicle legislation were brought out in October which impose stronger obligations to those as part of a ‘Chain of Responsibility’.
What this means exactly is that multiple parties may be responsible for offences committed by the drivers and operators of heavy vehicles, from the employer of the driver, to the person scheduling the run, to the loader and unloader of goods in the vehicle. So, if a driver is found to have broken the speed limit, or driven while fatigued, everyone who was responsible for requiring that driver to undertake a journey in an unsafe manner could be prosecuted under the national law.
The new standard requires all parties to take ‘all reasonably practicable steps to ensure the safety of their transport activities’ which could mean in fact that businesses can be prosecuted for failing to put in place control structures and practices.
And the penalty is no small issue. Apart from the tragic loss of life, injuries, and impact on families and community — the financial risk is significant. If a director is found to not have fulfilled their responsibility, they face fines of up to $300,000 or even imprisonment.
SO, WHAT DO EMPLOYERS NEED TO DO?
Safe Work Australia summarises steps as identifying hazards, assessing risks, controlling them, and then reviewing measures taken. For road-related hazards, the most important thing that can be implemented is driver training. Drivers need to be provided with the opportunity to improve their skills, know their limits, and practice better risk management and decision making.
Of course, traditional training takes drivers away from their work for extended periods which means extra down-time. It is also often costly, and can be once-off learning that doesn’t use sound psychological principles. It can be a bit of a tick-the-box exercise, which really doesn’t focus on what’s important. Often, the confidence a driver will gain from traditional training will be detrimental – it’s a false confidence, and has been shown to be extremely unhelpful in the context of safe driving. Not to mention that behind-the-wheel training comes with its own set of risks to the participant, and the employers’ budget!
WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?
Train your drivers online. The research shows that video simulations used as part of a training programme, translate accurately to on-road learning and application. Data can be gathered on performance and skill level, reporting is more accurate, and the learning is consistently delivered to all participants, rather than relying on conditions on the road that day, or the skill level of the particular instructor.
That’s where Fleetcoach comes in. It’s self-paced adult learning, not just another online ‘test’. It’s been specifically designed to train your drivers in higher-level driving skills such as visual search (active eye-scanning) hazard perception and risk management. Hazard perception directly relates to crash-risk, and risk management teaches better decision-making when things get hairy. It reduces over-confidence, and includes specific and regularly-updated topic-based content on things such as reversing, mobile phone use, and fatigue. Plus, it uses an inclusive and effective wellbeing approach. This means Fleetcoach trains people to get to know their own triggers, to honestly answer questions about risk that applies to them, and also get them thinking about how they can contribute to a company culture that supports safety on the roads. Plus, the skills trained by Fleetcoach are just as applicable to other commercial vehicles as they are to passenger vehicles.
It’s been developed by psychologists and road-safety researchers who are experts in their fields, and is entirely based on scientific research. It’s a solution that works.
Your employees are going to encounter difficult situations on the road. Why not prepare them as best as you can?
We’ll leave you with the words of the National Road Safety Partnership Programme (NRSPP): Ultimately, road safety, both within an organisation and in the community environment, requires leadership, support and willingness to act.
Wolf, N and Sutton, C, 2018, Teenage girl who died in truck hit-and-run is named, News.com.au, May 17
Murray, W., Newman, S., Watson, B., Davey, J. and Schonfeld, C, 2003, Evaluating and improving fleet safety in Australia, Australian Transport Safety Bureau
Safework Australia, Fatality Statistics, Australia, September 2018 <https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/statistics-and-research/statistics/fatalities/fatality-statistics>
World Health Organization, 2018, Road traffic injuries, <http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/road-traffic-injuries>
National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, Heavy Vehicle National Law and Regulations, Australia, 2018 <https://www.nhvr.gov.au/law-policies/heavy-vehicle-national-law-and-regulations>
SafeWork Australia, Managing risks to health and safety at the workplace fact sheet, Australia, August 2012
ACC (New Zealand) and NRSPP (Australia), A guide to applying road safety within a workplace, Australia, 2013
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