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Safety Culture: Preventing Truck Crashes

A recent study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration revealed a clear connection between a strong safety culture and the prevention of truck crashes.

Accurate Naming Improves Safety Culture

As a truck accident lawyer, I have long stopped referring to a truck crash as an "accident". Rarely, if ever, is a truck crash a true accident. It almost always is a result of someone -- the truck driver, the trucking company, the shipper, or even another motorist -- failing to pay proper attention to some task or responsibility.

As is pointed out below, when management uses appropriate language when talkingabout motor vehicle crashes and other key safety issues, the overall safety culture takes a notable step forward.

Key Findings in Review of Safety Culture Literature

FMCSA -Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration LogoAs noted by the FMCSA, the following items were identified as key concepts uncovered by researchers in their study and review of the industry literature:

  • Culture and safety have a clear connection.
  • Safety culture is best defined and indexed by an organization’s norms, attitudes, values, and beliefs regarding safety.
  • Effective top to bottom safety communication and interactions enhance safety culture.
  • Terms such as “accident” and “mishap” are often replaced with the terms “crash,” “wreck,” and other more appropriate, straightforward terms in many safe cultures.
  • In many instances, organizations, organizational subgroups, and professions may each have identifiable safety culture.
  • Recognition and certain rewards systems for safe behavior are an effective component of safety culture.
  • Driver experience enhances a safety culture, especially if that experience is with one carrier. Driver retention problems, however, have the potential for degrading a safety culture.
  • Many levels of communicating safety culture are necessary in “remote workforce” industries such as truck and bus operations.
  • Policies, procedures, employee safety responsibilities, and safety messages must be clear and simple.
  • Hiring practices, safety training and education, company orientation, and safety management are all key components of a safety culture.
  • Measuring safety performance of drivers and the organization as a whole are key components of a safety culture.

The full study from the FMCSA is available as a PDF via the link below:

The Role of Safety Culture in Preventing Commercial Motor Vehicle Crashes (PDF)