Opinion: Safety first for truck drivers

By: Glen Cameron


Good drivers want good safety outcomes

Opinion: Safety first for truck drivers
Glen Cameron

 

Records are meant to be broken, especially in the transport industry and especially when it involves worker safety and wellbeing. 

There have been some major advancements made in driver safety education, training and technology in recent years. For some progressive road transport businesses these improvements have created historic lows in lost time injury frequency rates and record highs of safety satisfaction and confidence among drivers.

The Glen Cameron Group’s decision five years ago to invest heavily in driver safety behaviours and technologies, for example, has delivered impressive results, including 3.5 years, or 1,248 days, without any lost time injuries for Coles.

But safety performance never stands still. It’s a record that must always be broken. Indeed, our ‘driving towards zero’ and other road safety campaigns like it envision a future where zero harm is the only real and acceptable measurement of safety performance in road transport. While this foreseeable future is close, it’s not here yet. And the reasons for this are complex and in many cases outside of the operator’s or driver’s control.

One of the biggest safety issues stalking road transport services today is ‘societal risk’, where drivers are subjected to risk by the decisions of other people on the road.

It’s hard to believe that general road users would even consider cutting off or raging against a driver of a 50-tonne truck, but they do and depending on what time of day and season, with alarming frequency. Societal risk is not always intended, either.

Misjudging the reaction time that a truck driver has to take to slow down or stop can create a chain reaction where the road user’s and the driver’s safety are seriously compromised, through no fault of their own.

At the Glen Cameron Group, we’ve installed forward, side and rear cameras into our fleets to protect our drivers from this risk factor. By giving our trucks external ‘eyes’, we are actively recording critical information about road conditions and behaviours that contribute to incidents. We are getting real data on ‘what happened’, which can be incorporated into practical driver demonstration and training programs.


Read our 2018 feature on the Glen Cameron Group, here


Most importantly, cameras are providing our drivers with a psychological advantage. They no longer have to experience road rage, for example, by themselves. Equally, the visibility of cameras on trucks is a major deterrent against unwanted road user behaviours. 

We are also investigating in-cab cameras and sensors to monitor in real time a driver’s level of fatigue and distraction. These internal eyes deploy face- and gaze-tracking algorithms and machine learning to assess and warn drivers of early risk signs in their driving behaviours. While there are some legitimate concerns about whether these eyes infringe on a person’s privacy, they nevertheless provide today’s drivers with another viable safety option.

The company has also been running driver fatigue monitoring for five years through the MT Data telematics platform.

Clearly, smart cameras and other value-adding technologies are enabling the industry to take the health and wellbeing of its workforce to record levels. 

But, as history shows, technology alone cannot solve the big safety challenges facing our industry. Last time I looked, cameras don’t educate people. Not yet anyway. MT Data is helpful in telling us when people can do things better. It can alert us to fatigue breaches. It can alert us to speed breaches. But conventional wisdom tells us that even the most intelligent driver safety solutions cannot operate effectively unless they are embedded within values-based, leadership, training and behavioural programs.

Consequently, the industry is experiencing a profound change in the way these programs are being designed and implemented. With a stronger focus on safety, driver recruitment has moved away from the ‘bum on the seat’ mentality, to a more sophisticated assessment of the calibre and quality of the person that employers are putting in their trucks.

For instance, at the Glen Cameron Group, we are taking a much more holistic view of a driver’s health and wellbeing, by looking at the behavioural elements of an individual, including the use of simulated scenarios to assess attitudes and responses to certain risk constellations during the interview process. And we are putting more effort into conducting medical assessments of our future drivers.

This focus on safety is also cutting the other way. Good drivers who know they are good drivers will ask questions about an employer’s fatigue guidelines, the hours that they will have work to, the age and quality of the vehicle they are driving, the safety training and education they are likely to receive, access to safety technology options, and so on.

They know what questions to ask and how a good business operates. In other words, drivers who are conscientious about their health and wellbeing are unlikely to work for employers who don’t put safety first. 

As a business, and as an industry, we don’t want to rely totally on technology.

Rather, what we need to do is be able to work with and engage our people to prevent an incident happening in the first place. It is this balance between technology and people that will ultimately define our industry’s safety performance record.

Glen Cameron is company director of the Glen Cameron Group

 

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