Trucking companies that prioritize safety through their
management practices and use of advanced technologies can greatly improve their
performance outcomes, according to a new study from the National Surface Transportation
Safety Center for Excellence (NSTSCE).
The research team worked with Travelers, a leading provider
of commercial motor vehicle insurance; the National Safety Council; and state
trucking associations to identify nine carriers that experienced significant
improvements in safety, including ones that were once classified as “high risk”
by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
“There are common elements to fleet safety programs that can
help virtually any carrier effectively protect their equipment, their cargo
and, most importantly, their drivers,” said Chris Hayes,Second Vice President of Transportation,
Risk Control at Travelers. “This study highlighted safety measures that proved
most effective for the participants and can be incorporated by others to
achieve positive results.”
All the fleets studied have since improved their safety outcomes
— meaning they have experienced decreases in the number and severity of crashes
and improved safety scores. The researchers interviewed the carriers about
their safety improvement strategies to identify best practices that other high-risk
fleets can implement.
Major study findings include the following:
- Six out of nine carriers reported that building a strong safety culture increased safety outcomes. Management and driver buy-in to safety programs were reported to be an especially important factor. Several carriers also reported benefits from generating buy-in from other parts of the carrier’s organization, including the operations department and dispatch. Other best practices that helped build a strong safety culture included:
- Sharing carrier-wide safety indicators with managers and drivers.
- Implementing improvements in hiring policies and/or training procedures and modifying driver scheduling to reduce fatigue.
- Having zero-tolerance policies for hours-of-service violations in order to proactively address safety concerns.
- Informing drivers about the carrier’s safety culture during orientation, and having all employees, not just drivers, participate in safety training and education.
Carriers that had developed a well-rounded safety culture experienced a substantial reduction in FMCSA-reportable crashes.
- Six out of nine carriers reported that
adopting at least one advanced safety technology significantly improved safety
outcomes. One carrier reported a 56 percent decrease in
preventable, rear-end collisions after equipping its trucks with automatic
emergency braking systems. Other technologies utilized include video-based
onboard safety monitoring systems, lane-departure warnings, blind spot
detection and stability control systems. Learn more about these technologies at
- Of the 69 strategies reported, 59 were pre-crash
countermeasures. Further, a large portion of the pre-crash
countermeasures, or proactive actions taken by carriers,
focused on the management culture and leadership
buy-in on safety. This supports prior research that suggests a connection
between a carrier’s organizational safety culture and actual safety
performance.The carriers also
reviewed crash data and the information gleaned from the advanced technology systems
in order to proactively address areas in need of improvement.
- There was no single fix for improved
of the carriers that significantly improved safety implemented only one change.
Instead, all the carriers made comprehensive adjustments. These included changing
management practices; implementing new technologies: and improving driver and
manager training, hiring guidelines, scheduling and vehicle maintenance
“The results of this study indicate that a comprehensive
approach to reducing crashes — which includes deploying advanced technology and
strong organizational safety culture — can reduce fatalities and injuries
on our roadways,” said Alex Epstein, director of transportation safety for the
National Safety Council. “We hope other carriers are able to learn from this
research and take action to make their own fleets safer, the end result being
safer roads for all and closer to our goal of zero fatalities.”
“Our findings were largely consistent in terms of the
countermeasures the nine carriers viewed as influential factors in their improved
safety records,” said Matthew Camden, the project’s principal investigator and
senior research associate for VTTI’s Center for Truck and Bus Safety. “Overall,
the carriers attributed their success not to one ‘single fix’ solution but
rather the fact that they adopted a comprehensive approach to safety culture
and practices within their companies, specifically the adoption of advanced
The research was funded through the support of the
following NSTSCE stakeholders: the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI),
Travelers, the National Safety Council, General Motors Corporation, the Federal
Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Virginia Department of Transportation
and the Virginia Transportation Research Council. While the Federal Motor
Carrier Safety Administration identifies thousands of high-risk carriers each
year, prior to the publication of this study, commercial motor vehicle fleets
have typically not had access to data or information on the strategies that
other carriers have successfully used to improve their safety records.
NSTSCE at VTTI was established by the Federal Public
Transportation Act of 2005 to develop and disseminate advanced transportation
safety techniques and innovations in both rural and urban communities.
The research team will present a detailed discussion of
the results at the Fleet Safety Conference on Oct. 28–30 in Henderson, Nevada.
About National Safety
The National Safety Council is a
nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate preventable deaths at
work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research,
education and advocacy. Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, NSC advances
this mission by partnering with businesses, government agencies, elected
officials and the public in areas where we can make the most impact.
The Travelers Companies, Inc. (NYSE: TRV) is a leading provider of property casualty insurance for auto, home and business. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Travelers has approximately 30,000 employees and generated revenues of approximately $30 billion in 2018. For more information, visit www.travelers.com.
About Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute conducts research to save lives, time, and money and protect the environment. As one of seven premier research institutes created by Virginia Tech to answer national challenges, VTTI is continually advancing transportation through innovation and has impacted public policy on national and international levels.