USA Banner

Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

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. 

Literature Review.

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. 
Last updated: Monday, March 17, 2014