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4 things safe truck companies do to prevent wrecks

Written by Steve Gursten Posted July 23rd, 2013

Common themes emerge  between the safety culture of a motor carrier that cares and the ones who don’t

truck company safety

The Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable help people who have been badly injured or who have lost loved ones at the hands of dangerous truck companies that cut corners on safety. Our attorneys have seen some of the worst trucking companies out there from our own cases.

Fortunately, we don’t see a lot of the best trucking companies, because good companies who do follow mandatory safety guidelines, and who do care about keeping the highways safe are much less likely to cause wrecks that kill and injure people.  Yes, good companies can still find their trucks involved in terrible wrecks, but the odds are far less that a preventable wreck will occur if a company has a robust safety culture and well-trained drivers.

Why do preventable tractor trailer wrecks happen? The most common reason is either because there is no safety culture in place, or when there is a disconnect between the safety culture policy stated by management at the macro level, and implementation  at the micro level with the people who actually drive and maintain the trucks.

A recent study sheds some light on this. This study shows that among the safest truck companies with the safest truck drivers, there are several common practices which have been identified:

  1. Driver safety training;
  2. Driver autonomy regarding scheduling;
  3. Opportunities for safety input; and
  4. Top management commitment.

The study, Management practices as antecedents of safety culture within the trucking industry: similarities and differences by hierarchical level, by Ana Arboleda, Paula C. Morrow, Michael R. Crum and Mack C. Sheeley, can be found on Sciencedirect.com.

Research across 116 different trucking firms suggests that where these factors are present, there is high likelihood of a strong safety culture company wide. Here’s more information on each of the factors:

1. Driver safety training: The safest trucking companies were found to have trained drivers with a significant focus on truck driver fatigue. Truck drivers also react to company safety initiatives depending on how involved they are in the process. When employees take a greater ownership of the training program, they are more likely to embrace and support the changes and/or protocols. Similarly, if employees are not involved in developing safety, it will be more difficult to implement safety measures at the micro level.

2. Driver autonomy regarding scheduling: Studies suggest that an employee’s perception of the strength of a safety culture is influenced by his or her perceived level of autonomy. It is also demonstrated that higher levels of autonomy may give rise to higher levels of organizational commitment. Therefore, truck drivers may be more willing to implement and observe company safety protocol where they feel more autonomous.

Beyond this, as a practical measure, scheduling autonomy allows drivers to accommodate for wildly varying driving assignments, and their own personal rest needs. Often, dispatchers set schedules for drivers which are demanding and exhausting, yet the dispatcher does not see it that way. Conversely, the truck driver feels obligated and pressured to meet the demanding schedule set by dispatch. The driver feels the need to cut corners on safety to do so. Greater autonomy can assuage this tension.

3. Opportunities for safety input: This ties in very closely to truck driver safety training. Generally, truck drivers believe that their daily driving experience will be useful for management in the creation and implementation of safety initiatives. In many instances, this is absolutely true. Truck drivers are trained professionals who are “in the trenches” every day and familiar with all the challenges on the road.  Including their input positively affects safety decisions because the truck driver possesses valuable information to contribute to the organizational decisions. In fact, studies have demonstrated that as employees participate, productive safety discussion ensues, translating into an increase in safe working.

4. Top management commitment: a truck driver’s perception of support from the organization is critical.  These perceptions directly affect how the employee believes safety is valued within the company. Worker compliance is much higher when supervisors and workers alike are involved in accident-prevention activities, and when employees see that their input is valued by the company.

So, we hope management at these commercial motor carriers out there are taking notes!  These safety practices can make any company significantly safer,  and reinforce a safety culture among management and truck drivers alike.

Something  all trucking companies and drivers should be striving for.

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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