New Zealand saw the worst road toll in in over a decade during 2018, with close to 400 deaths and more than 12,000 serious injuries. Yet New Zealand is not alone. Globally nearly 1.25 million people die in road crashes each year. Some of the contributing factors in the road toll are inappropriate speed for the conditions, drug- and alcoholimpaired driving, fatigue, distracted driving, poor road condition or design, vehicle faults, and a lack of driver skills and knowledge.
Some of these factors are disturbing and are completely within the driver’s control. Of the total road fatalities, over 30% of the vehicle occupants were not wearing a seat belt, 11% were distracted drivers (predominantly smartphone use), another 30% were under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, and inappropriate speed was a contributing factor in 25% of deaths. Trucking operators have an obligation, under the Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA), to protect their employees while they are working, even if this means protecting them from themselves. This includes while they are out on the road. A work-related vehicle is considered a place of work and employees who are mobile are covered by the HSWA.
One of the best steps that can be taken towards improving the safety of employees on the road is to implement a safe driving policy, which should be linked to the company’s employment or subcontractor agreements. This will help to drive a road safety culture within the business. The policy should be defined by two key objectives: to ensure that employees and subcontractors demonstrate safe, efficient driving skills and other good road safety habits at all times; and to maintain all vehicles in a safe, clean and roadworthy condition at all times to ensure the maximum safety of the drivers, occupants and all other road users. The policy should include a code of conduct that states the business’s expectations for employees and subcontractors to comply with all legislation, and to be conscious of road safety, and the expectation that they will demonstrate safe driving and other good road safety habits.
It should also list the following actions that will be viewed as serious breaches of conduct, for which dismissal may be a consequence: drinking or being under the influence of drugs while driving; driving while disqualified or not correctly licensed; reckless or dangerous driving causing death or injury; failure to stop after a crash; acquiring demerit points leading to licence suspension; and any actions that warrant the suspension of a licence. Every driver is responsible and accountable for their own actions, including the following: ensuring they maintain a current licence for the class of vehicle they are driving, and that it is always carried with them; immediately notifying their employer if their licence is suspended, cancelled, or has limitations placed on it; always behaving with the highest level of professional conduct; carrying out regular pre-trip inspections of their vehicle, and immediately reporting any faults; complying with all legislation and rules when on duty; always complying with the code of conduct; always maintaining speed appropriate to the conditions, including operating within the speed limit; always wearing a seatbelt, and never using a mobile phone while driving; never tailgating other drivers; being aware of their vehicle’s blind spots; always complying with the worktime and logbook rules; ensuring that their load is secured in accordance with the truck loading code; immediately reporting any infringements, near misses or crashes.
Employers have responsibilities that include:
• Ensuring that all vehicles under their control are well maintained and legally compliant, and safe to operate on the road at all times.
• Fitting all vehicles with the appropriate safety equipment, including fire extinguisher and first aid kit, and ensuring that drivers are properly trained in the use of this equipment.
• Following up on all reported maintenance issues.
• Ensuring that all drivers are always legally compliant.
• Ensuring that all drivers are trained as safe drivers, and are trained to perform their duties.
• Ensuring that drivers’ schedules allow them enough time to comply with the worktime and logbook rules.
• Recognising the signs of driver fatigue.
• Ensuring that all vehicles are fit for the purpose intended.
• Ensuring that all drivers have a thorough induction into the company’s road safety policies and procedures.
• Putting drivers through a truck rollover prevention programme.
• Updating drivers regularly on road safety, fatigue, and health and safety issues.
To reinforce good, safe driving behaviour, it is also important those employers:
• Don’t pay speeding or other infringement fines.
• Lead by good example.
• Have zero-tolerance for using mobile phones when driving, or not wearing seatbelts.
• Encourage a healthy lifestyle (perhaps provide free bottles of water and fruit at workplaces).
All companies should regularly review their safe driving policy to ensure that it is supporting the business’s key road safety objectives.