Service Company Explores Pathways To Make Driving Inherently Safer
In risk management, an inherently safer approach implies an attempt to eliminate, or at least reduce the severity and likelihood of, incident occurrence through careful attention to fundamental design and layout. This paper examines whether this approach can be applied and be effective in managing transportation safety concerning which, historically, most of the responsibility for safe driving has been placed on the individual driver and less on the design of the transportation system and features of the equipment.
As is often the case for change management, this undertaking was motivated by a tragic motor-vehicle accident in Saudi Arabia, which resulted in three fatalities, two employees and a third-party driver. Transportation-management systems were implemented and in place, including a contractor-selection process, journey-management program, defensive-driving training, and in-vehicle monitoring systems, but, as sometimes happens, compliance with planning and executional requirements was inadequate. The accident-investigation findings uncovered a number of gaps that existed in the transportation-management system and that eventually led to the catastrophic event. These revelations, coupled with the vision that “all motor-vehicle accidents are preventable,” presented an opportunity to revisit the way transportation safety was managed. The entire life cycle of the journey was reviewed and reorganized, from the planning stage of the journey to journey’s completion. Such an approach posed a challenge to the company definition of “preventability” for motor-vehicle accidents, which states that a preventable accident is a vehicle accident in which the driver could have driven (but failed to do so) in such a manner as to identify an accident-producing situation soon enough to take reasonable and prudent action to avoid such an accident. This definition places the primary responsibility for preventing a vehicle accident on the driver and his ability to anticipate road hazards, assess the risks, and take actions to avoid the accident through the ability to challenge the process, including questioning the need or timing of the journey itself.
Instead of the instinctive quick-fix reaction of placing responsibility solely on the driver, the new perspective dictated that responsibility for preventing accidents lies with the company management and its ability to create a system that would comprehensively combine the management of all transportation aspects under one umbrella, including:
- Human factors and driving behaviors
- Journey management, with all necessary reviews and approvals
- Vehicle speed and other driving characteristics
- Vehicle condition and conformance to standards
Inherently Safe Driving-System Framework
What makes a system robust and inherently safe, and what must it look like? In the world of computer science, robustness is defined as “the ability of a computer system to cope with errors during execution” and also as “the ability of an algorithm to continue operating despite abnormalities of input or calculations.” To build a robust operating system, computer companies study many possible inputs and input combinations, program against every point of possible failure, and make the system intelligent enough to handle all possible error states. The goal for a new system is for it to be robust enough to monitor proactively (without direct involvement of humans), prevent any known or assumed compliance failures or violations, and enforce compliance during driving. The pillars of the conceptual inherently safe and robust driving system are intelligence, visibility, compliance, and proactivity, which rest on the foundation of independence and automation.
Intelligence. This is the ability of the fleet and journey-management software to build connections independently and automatically between the movements of vehicles and applicable journey plans, run compliance checks against their approval levels, run compliance checks against driver competencies, and highlight and send any potential breaches to designated personnel for them to audit.
Visibility. This is the ability to provide accurate, real-time information on movements of vehicles, journeys being undertaken, and their associated information such as driver, vehicle, and trip progress. In addition to the operational data, which is required to monitor execution, the system is required to provide visibility of current trends in various driving aspects (e.g., at-risk driving behaviors, journey-management breaches, fleet utilization, and night driving).
Compliance. This is the ability to ensure compliance of all elements of the driving process (i.e., driver, vehicle, journey route, and plan), either before or during the journey, to the standards within the preapproved criteria. The system must be set up to prevent selection of an unfit driver or vehicle for an intended journey, and, if the journey must progress according to a preapproved route, any deviations must be identified and corrected immediately.
Proactivity. This is the ability of the system to prevent potential breaches through predetermined controls or check points. Examples of this would be the inability to select an approved light-vehicle driver for a heavy-vehicle trip (even if a person possesses a commercial-vehicle driving license) or the ability to alert a driver to stop and rest at predetermined intervals.
Independence and Automation
This driving system rests upon two primary features—automation and independence. Automation is intended to minimize the human-to-system interaction, whereas independence implies freedom from operational factors that may influence the safe operation of vehicles.
Independence. Day-to-day priorities influence operational activities. Deadlines must be met, and, often, these priorities conflict with values. It takes integrity and commitment to follow the rules, but, as is commonly recognized, the human factor is often less reliable than others. To avoid possible conflicts of interest, provide uncompromising independence from operational factors, and provide sufficient available resources, a new department was created called the Transportation Office. The entire purpose of this department is to oversee all transportation aspects of employees and contractors in support of the company’s work activities. This office directly manages all transport vehicles, drivers, Road Journey Management Center operations, and the Journey Management Plan process, and performs regular audits of the entire system.
The Transportation Office has responsibility and full authority for final approval of any journey to take place. Even if a journey has been approved by the driver’s manager, it will still require approval from the Journey Management Center.
Automation. Fleet-Management Improvements. In-vehicle monitoring systems are used to control compliance with speed limits and to monitor and correct drivers’ behaviors (e.g., harsh braking and harsh acceleration). However, it was determined that the system could provide more proactive control points to improve the fleet-management process for earlier detection of possible noncompliance and intervention.
Improvements were made to make the system less dependent on drivers’ attitude toward their safety. The system automatically alerts and, if required, enforces the expected behavior, and it provides new data for trend analysis and required further improvements.
e-Journey Management. Making improvements in the management of drivers’ behaviors and vehicle movements was an important step toward the “zero motor-vehicle accidents” vision but was not enough to eliminate vehicular incidents. Failures in the journey execution were a common cause and were responsible for a large percentage of motor-vehicle accidents. To address this issue, a project was created to develop a solution that focused on “management by exception” through the integration of fleet management and automated journey monitoring. This electronic system is designed to be sufficiently intelligent to run a constant monitoring of vehicle movements and verify the compliance of their execution to their preapproved conditions. If any breach is identified, the system will alert Road Journey Management Center personnel for immediate intervention.
Passive Controls. Considering the risks of possible rollovers, a decision was made to reinforce vehicles with rollover protection. All company-owned vehicles must meet international automotive safety and quality standards, including applicable safety and crush tests by manufacturers, and must be currently safe to use.
Driver Training. A competence-management concept was adopted regarding driver training. The driver training program has been revised to address critical defensive-driving fundamentals, company-specific driving hazards, and safe-driving expectations. The Core Defensive Driving course covers 25 specific defensive-driving skills, and a student must demonstrate not only academic knowledge of the defensive-driving material but also practical mastery of the defensive-driving skills taught.