For anyone interested in fleet management, I would recommend a fascinating commentary on trucking and national security published by Foreign Policy magazine last autumn. ‘Trucking is the security crisis you never noticed’, by Elizabeth Braw, highlights the link between underpaid and overworked drivers, our growing demand for cheap (if not free) next-day deliveries, the burden this is putting on the transport sector and its impact on national security.
Braw says: “If drivers decided to go on strike, or retire en masse, countries would quickly run out of food and gasoline – causing social and economic crisis and leaving them dangerously vulnerable.”
We are already experiencing a global shortage of people willing to work as truck drivers. In the USA alone, estimates are that upwards of 100,000 truckers are needed to cope with today’s demands, and this could triple in the next ten years.
“Creating a safety culture within your organisation often also means creating a better place to work. Step One: recognise that driving is a skill, and that casual, unskilled labour will not do.”
The reasons? Demographics is one. The average age of truckers is 55, and many of these ‘baby-boomers’ are now approaching retirement. Poor pay is another. Driver remuneration is often not great given the difficulties and hazards of the job. Unhealthy, exhausting and dangerous conditions of work are also a major factor. Truck and delivery drivers are carrying out one of the most deadly jobs on the planet, but this is not always recognised in pay packets.
Good fleet safety management can’t solve the whole problem but it can certainly help. Basic fleet ‘hygiene’ should ensure truck drivers get the care they deserve – from rest stops to personal security to decent conditions of work. Creating a safety culture within your organisation often also means creating a better place to work. Step One: recognise that driving is a skill, and that casual, unskilled labour will not do.
Reasonable wages are also important. But better planning of delivery routes, better scheduling and shift patterns, better vehicles, and better training – all of which are in the control of a fleet manager – can significantly reduce the stressful and unsafe work environment so often associated with truck driving, and attract more people to the job.
Effective driver management is a core module of our EASST Academy Road Safety at Work: Online Course for Managers led by Dr Lisa Dorn, Associate Professor of Driver Behaviour at Cranfield University. The module discusses the value of drivers in an organisation and how you can create a happier and safer working culture for drivers. For a sneak peak you can read Dr Lisa Dorn’s blog post ‘10 habits of the most successful fleet safety managers’.
In terms of managing personal security risks, EASST also hosts a training course for drivers (‘Protect yourself and your cargo’) delivered by the IRU Academy and the Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA) – the leading global supply chain security association.
And don’t forget Brake’s campaign for Safer Fleets, calling for action by public policy-makers, police, companies and drivers to better manage risks. By supporting the campaign, we can all play a role in making the world a bit more secure.