The Role of Safety Culture in Preventing Commercial Motor Vehicle Crashes
About this Study
While improvement of “safety culture” is sought by organizations that face safety risks, the speciﬁcs of the term itself and the methods by which safety culture is fostered are relatively ambiguous. A key reason for this is the general lack of standardization of the highly qualitative term “safety culture,” even within the trucking and motorcoach industries. Understanding this ambiguity, the CTBSSP 14 research team synthesized the current available research and literature pertaining to safety culture, ﬁnding speciﬁc ties between the available body of knowledge and the motor carrier industries. The effort also included a data collection component, consisting of convenience sample surveys and interviews of motor carrier safety managers and commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers, as well as case study data collect onsite, directly from motor carriers. This report contains an outline of suggested steps for increasing safety culture through a series of best practices. The report concludes with a discussion of ﬁndings and ﬁnal research needs.
The research team’s approach includes an extensive review of the literature on organizational culture, safety, and the concept of “safety culture.” This review includes, but is not limited to, research conducted in the ﬁeld of transportation, with a speciﬁc focus on the transport of goods and people in the following sectors: trucking, motorcoach, aviation, and maritime. Safety culture-related research of the high risk chemical and energy production industries and similar types of operations were also included.
The literature review identiﬁed the following key concepts:
- 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. 2
- 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.