Research/studies Trucking Transportation

‘Comprehensive approach’ needed to improve motor carrier safety: study

Photo: WendellandCarolyn/iStockphoto

Blacksburg, VA — Trucking companies that develop robust organizational safety cultures and implement at least one advanced technology can enhance their safety performance outcome, results of a recent study from the National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence indicate.

NSTSCE – part of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute – teamed up with the National Safety Council, insurance provider Travelers and state trucking associations to identify nine carriers that have shown “significant improvements in safety,” including organizations once deemed “high risk” by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Researchers conducted in-depth case studies of each carrier and then charted their safety improvements and the strategies used to achieve the results.

Among the key factors in developing a strong safety culture are “management and driver buy-in to safety programs” and “sharing carrierwide safety indicators with managers and drivers,” an Aug. 15 press release from VTTI states. Examples of the latter include better hiring policies and training procedures, which are detailed in the study, as well as:

  • Modifying driver schedules to reduce fatigue.
  • Having a zero-tolerance policy for hours-of-service violations.
  • Informing drivers about the carrier’s safety culture during orientation, and getting all employees – not just drivers – to participate in safety education and training.

Six out of nine carriers reported that adopting at least one advanced safety technology significantly improved safety outcomes. One carrier had a 56% reduction in preventable, rear-end crashes after installing automatic emergency braking systems. Other technologies include onboard safety monitoring systems, blind spot detection, lane-departure warnings and stability control systems.


Around 85% of the safety strategies implemented by the carriers are proactive, and the researchers caution that no “single fix” improved safety performance. Instead, they tout the “comprehensive adjustments” the carriers made.

“The results of this study indicate that a comprehensive approach to reducing crashes – which includes deploying advanced technology and building a strong organizational safety culture – can reduce fatalities and injuries on our roadways,” Alex Epstein, director of transportation safety for NSC, said in the release. “We hope other carriers are able to learn from this research and take action to make their own fleets safer, the end result being safer roads for all and closer to our goal of zero fatalities.”

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