Within this industry, transporter trucks hold a significant position, responsible for the transportation of goods. However, ensuring the safe operation of these vehicles is of paramount importance to prevent accidents and protect the well-being of both truck drivers and other road users. Applying safe systems to road safety involves implementing comprehensive measures that address driver training, vehicle maintenance, load securing, and the integration of advanced safety technologies. By prioritising these measures, we can create a road environment that promotes the efficient and secure movement of goods while minimising risks and fostering safer roads for everyone. Dr Karen McDonnell, RoSPA’s Occupational Health and Safety Policy Adviser and Head of RoSPA Scotland, brings extensive expertise in road safety. In this first article in the series, she explores the importance of applying safe systems to road safety, focusing on all road users, including those of transportation vehicles, and examining key measures to ensure their well-being.
The history of road networks is fascinating. From the earliest times, routes connected settlements, allowing people to trade goods and build communities. The earliest engineered roads were built in the Iron Age, and by the 1400s, London was the centre of a highly developed natural road system.
Fast forward to the mid-1950s, and ‘modern’ traffic was born, with the rapid development of the UK road network, a mix of rural, urban and motorways extending to over 262,000 miles. Between 1980 and 2005, traffic on our road network increased by 80 per cent while road capacity itself increased by just 10 per cent.
These facts help paint a vivid picture of how industry, commerce and living in the UK has changed, facilitated by ingenuity and invention.
Then consider the human cost of these changes and, from a road safety perspective, the number of people killed and seriously injured on the road network. It is startling to reflect that the fatality rate on UK roads actually increased in 2020. A shocking 1,600 people were killed at a time of 21st-century travel with electric cars, real-time monitoring and NCAP ratings. And behind each of the 1,600 is a name, family, co-workers and communities with empty spaces in their lives.
Last year’s Panorama programme Britain’s killer roads highlighted a number of influencing factors behind this increase. There is broad agreement that laws, policing and enforcement are very important factors in ensuring our safety on the roads. Also, a lack of targeted investment in our road policing can be seen as a contributory factor.
Embedding a safe systems approach to tackle fatalities and serious injuries (KSIs) does, however involve all of us. We recognise the regulatory requirement to have ‘safe systems of work’ and the importance of ‘people, equipment, materials and environment’. We recognise that accidents and incidents have multiple factors and that drivers have to make risk-based decisions hundreds of times in each and every journey they take.
In road safety, there is a bespoke safe system approach that we can all play a part in the delivery of. Can we, as drivers, whether for leisure or work, make better choices? Can we, as practitioners, ensure that driving risk is managed as any other risk to our organisations? ‘E’ for enforcement (through having the management of occupational road risk policies in place and the regulatory enforcement that policing our roads brings) blended with the ‘E’s of Engineering and Education can help us to think about how performance improvement can be achieved.
RoSPA’s roots in road safety (both influencing legislation and supporting our members who work on and use the road network) can effect change. We recently welcomed the Government listening to our consultation submission and announcing the pause of all-lane running on smart motorways. This shows clearly that data analysis and consultation works and the lessons are learned for each and every road development scheme in future.
We all expect that we can use well-designed, well-maintained roads that are safe for all our vehicles, including two wheels, four wheels and the rest, whether pedal, electric or ICE powered. Good transport planning, roads designed for all users, with effective road safety audits conducted by trained road safety engineers must be considered in the same way as enforcement and education.
Whether you are a pedestrian, cyclist, motorcyclist, or someone who drives or rides for work, there is little or no room for error. Each driver sitting behind a steering wheel has made a decision about their personal fitness to drive. Every day, businesses and organisations make road safety-related decisions when checking in with drivers, undertaking vehicle checks and planning delivery routes.
For all drivers, it is the simple steps that save lives: driving at a speed appropriate to conditions; planning in a break after two hours of driving; wearing your seatbelt; and not drinking and driving. Each person reading this article can proactively encourage these simple steps within an overall approach to managing driving risk, ensuring people return home safely to their families every day.
Our roads are a shared space, whether in cities, towns or rural areas, spaces where we can drive, ride, cycle and walk. Understanding the layers of responsibility, whether personally or organisationally, to keep people safe on our roads is central to our success. Humanising road safety and focusing on the people and families behind the statistics we use to assess performance improvement must surely be the central vision as we go forward.
Access RoSPA’s road safety guidance at: www.rospa.com/road-safety/advice
RoSPA is responsible for the delivery of the Scottish Occupational Road Safety Alliance (ScORSA), an initiative relating to those who drive or ride for work. Membership is free and is open to individuals and organisations worldwide. Member benefits include a webinar series, road safety podcasts and access to information that helps manage driving risk. www.scorsa.org.uk