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MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY:
A COLLABORATIVE APPROACH TO REDUCING
MOTOR CARRIER INCIDENTS
Implementing an effective motor carrier safety program presents unique challenges to safety professionals. In addition to the risk of injury for employees and other motorists, motor carrier accidents involving hazardous materials can have serious environmental and security ramifications. However, a traditional safety program may not be as effective for motor carrier drivers, who are not part of a conventional workplace and are independent by nature.
How can a safety and health professional address these challenges? For example, Andy, the safety manager of a motor carrier company that transports hazardous materials, wants to supplement his existing safety and health program to avoid common types of accidents. Andy knows that he must take a different approach than he would in developing a safety program for workers in a closely supervised plant or factory setting. He also knows that his hazardous materials drivers are highly skilled and independent, and he wants them to have a hands-on role in the development of the new program. Finally, he wants to implement the program in a way that emphasizes the company's total commitment to safety and health for employees and the community. As a first step, Andy might refer to a similar project successfully undertaken by The Dow Chemical Company (Dow) and Transport Service Company (TSC) discussed in the case study below.
Dow is committed to both workplace safety and health and the safe handling of products from inception in the research laboratory through manufacture and distribution to ultimate disposal. Dow is a science and technology company that develops, manufactures and provides various chemical, plastic and agricultural products and services for customers in over 180 countries. In 2001, Dow launched a project to enhance safety at its motor carrier contractors through the use of its behavior-based safety program. The project had its roots in Dow's commitment to Responsible Care®, a program of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) emphasizing both workplace and community safety and health. Specifically, Responsible Care® is an ACC program, mandatory for all ACC members, that requires higher standards in environmental, health and safety programs.
One of the guiding principles of Responsible Care® calls for ACC members to work with motor carriers to promote the safe transport of chemicals. Accordingly, Dow sought to extend the Responsible Care® commitment to include its partners that transport its products. Dow believed that by tailoring its internal behavior-based performance program to meet the needs of motor carriers, it could offer a cost-effective addition to the motor carriers' existing safety and health programs. Rather than create static safety policies for its motor carriers to follow, safety and health professionals at Dow worked with the motor carrier companies to implement a new proactive approach to accident reduction, with the goal of implementing a cultural change that emphasizes safety among motor carriers.
Dow's internal behavior-based safety program is based on the principle that all individuals are able to behave acceptably. Behavior-based safety programs begin with forming work groups to identify, measure and change the human factor or unsafe behavior. By collecting and understanding the data, employers can adjust behavior to avoid future near misses and actual incidents. Behavior-based performance has its roots in the principle that technology, safety and health regulations and procedures can affect change only to a certain level; human behavior must be changed to achieve the maximum reduction in risk level. The ultimate goal of this approach is zero behavior-related safety incidents; the end result is a change in company culture.
A COLLABORATIVE APPROACH
One of Dow's motor carriers, Transport Service Company (TSC), volunteered to serve as the pilot carrier for project. TSC, which prides itself on its commitment to safety and health, embraced the idea and agreed to add this project to its existing safety and health program. TSC was an ideal choice to serve as the pilot carrier because, in addition to its strong commitment to the safety and health of its employees, it has been recognized by the National Tank Truck Carriers Association and the American Trucking Association for its safety programs. The company has its own set of strict internal safety and health standards and was eager for the opportunity to work with Dow on this new initiative.
The two companies worked together to adopt the behavior-based concept used by Dow to a trucking terminal setting. As a first step, TSC changed the name of the program to Safety-Based Performance because it believed that the independent-minded drivers it employed would be more receptive to the project without behavior in the title. The company understood that drivers work independently and largely free of direct supervision. Bulk-liquid long-haul drivers in particular are generally the most highly trained and skilled drivers on the road, and TSC was concerned that they might resent the implication that they were behaving unsafely.
TSC chose its Midland, Michigan, terminal for the initial launch of the project because Dow has a major production facility there. The company's Safety Director selected rear-end collisions as the initial focus of the project because the data collected from TSC's satellite tracking system, which monitors vehicles and keeps drivers in contact with the terminal while they are on the road, revealed that they are the most frequent type of accident.
As part of the program, all drivers at TSC's Midland terminal were asked to serve as observers of critical causes; defined as the bad habits and unsafe practices that contribute to accidents. Drivers were asked to observe and collect instances of near-miss incidents while on the road. Because motor carrier drivers do their work away from a traditional workplace, employee buy-in and participation were important facets of the project, particularly with regard to data collection. Many drivers expressed concern about the need to observe critical causes, which they perceived as reporting on co-workers or themselves. However, TSC made clear to the drivers that all observations would be anonymous and that the report did not have to designate whether the driver involved was the person making the report, another TSC driver, or a driver from a different motor carrier. Drivers were simply asked to report back to the company any actions they encountered on the road that contributed to either a near miss or an accident. A template was developed as part of the project to make it easier for drivers to submit the critical causes via TSC's satellite system.
As data on the near misses were collected, the observations were posted in the terminal on the bulletin board and shared with all of the other drivers during safety meetings. (See the figure below.) At the end of three months, a work group of five drivers met to identify the critical causes of certain types of accidents, evaluate them and establish preventative measures. Members of the initial work group were carefully selected. The most respected drivers at the terminal were asked to serve; it was hoped that their participation would influence other more skeptical drivers. Seeing errors that some drivers were making helped other drivers avoid these same mistakes. The challenge TSC faced was sustaining the drivers' interest in continuing the program. Using new drivers kept a fresh perspective on the program. In its desire to sustain the commitment of the drivers, terminal manager and dispatchers, TSC decided to review the possibility of giving some type of recognition to the drivers who offered the most constructive feedback. Continuing the dialog between management and drivers was very important to the success of this program.
The TSC work group at the Midland terminal took the observations reported by drivers and compiled a list of the major causes of rear-end collisions, which included: following too close, aggressive driving, excessive speed, merging traffic, running traffic signals, and construction work zone incidents. The work group then developed a series of preventive measures, including a renewed emphasis on maintaining proper distance intervals in traffic situations, which were communicated to all drivers at the terminal.
The preventive measures were also promoted through different types of articles and posters developed by the work group and TSC's Safety Director and incorporated into the company's driver training program for new hires. These materials emphasized that the preventive measures came from other drivers; for example, flyers with pictures of the driver work group and their safety measures were distributed with paychecks. As the preventive measures were adopted and the number of accidents reduced, TSC distributed safety awards and recognitions.
Because safety-based performance is an on-going process, once the initial rear-end collision preventive measures were adopted and the goal was exceeded, a new goal was selected, a new work group formed, and new observations begun. Other groups worked on rollovers and lane changes. Changing the type of incident and publicizing the groups' accomplishments remained important.
While the Midland terminal was the initial launching point for Safety-Based Performance, TSC ultimately launched the project at all of its terminals. The company has a strong commitment to maintaining interest in the program and ensuring that employee involvement does not dissipate over time. In the event that target goals are not met, TSC's Safety Director reviews the process to ensure that goals have been correctly identified and communicated and that the drivers' critical cause observations are being routinely recorded and communicated.
Because it is keenly aware of the fact that most accidents occur during a driver's first two years of employment, TSC has worked to incorporate its new drivers into the Safety-Based Performance work groups. Participating in this on-going process helps the new drivers understand the company's emphasis on safety and reinforces the safe behaviors emphasized by the project.
RESULTS OF THE PROJECT
The goal for the project was an annual 60-percent reduction of rear-end collisions, but in fact, in the first year the reduction was 82 percent. TSC hosted a kick-off breakfast with the Safety Director and Vice President of Operations on hand to demonstrate top-down ownership of the process and raised a special safety flag as a visual signal of its commitment to the project and as a reminder to the drivers of its importance.
TSC and Dow are pleased with the outcome of the project, and both have benefited from its initial successes. Dow has extended the program to all of its major motor carriers in North America and is launching the program in Europe, Latin America, and the Pacific Rim. In Europe, the program has been embraced by European chemical trade associations, who are encouraging every chemical transport company on the continent to implement the program. The program continues to be adapted to the regulatory requirements of various countries to serve regional needs.
TSC's overall accident frequency ratio improved several percentage points in its operating ratio. Reduced accident cost is one of the components that helped create the improvement. One of the selection criteria of TSC's customers is its safety performance; TSC continues to receive high marks from its existing and potential customers.
TSC has profited from its accident reduction rates and been recognized for its efforts by industry associations. For example, it has recently received the National Tank Truck Carrier Safety Award, Outstanding Performance Trophy, and Improvement Contest – Twentieth Year (Best in the Association), and many TSC employees have received the Competitive Safety Contest and Personnel Safety Contest awards. In addition to improving its accident statistics, such as the initial 82-percent reduction in rear-end collisions experienced at the Midland terminal, the company has experienced savings in fuel consumption, maintenance costs, and reduced insurance premiums.
TSC has also been able to maintain its maintenance cost and minimize the increase in its insurance premiums because of its safety record – of which this program is a part. The program also had a significant impact upon the company's morale and employee retention rates. Prior to the program, TSC's employee turnover was around 45 percent; after the program it became about 28 percent, which is among the lowest in the trucking industry. TSC's Safety Director Tom Hosty notes that employees have a better sense that they are an important part of the safety process and that they can take proactive steps in this regard. The drivers also understand the company's top-down commitment to safety and health. The boost in employee retention has also improved safety, as employees who have been on the job for more than two years generally have fewer accidents.
The views expressed herein do not constitute any official position of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Additionally, because many of the hazards addressed in this study are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, that agency would be responsible for any further interpretative guidance on hazards not regulated by DOL.
1This case study was developed from information provided by Terry E. Hanning, Manager, Global Supply Chain Environmental Health and Safety Regulatory Affairs Expertise Center, The Dow Chemical Company; Mark Spence, Manger, North American Health and Safety Regulatory Affairs, The Dow Chemical Company; and Tom Hosty, Vice President/Safety, Compliance, and Environmental, Transport Service Company.