FBT Tran­swest leads the way with safety

How FBT Tran­swest man­ages risk and ful­fils safety du­ties while deal­ing in dan­ger­ous goods,

Deals on Wheels - - CONTENTS - Ricky French writes

If you ask FBT Tran­swest manag­ing direc­tor

Cameron Dunn to point to the num­ber-one fac­tor that has got his lost-time in­jury fre­quency rate (LTFIR) down to zero, he won’t point to a no­tice­board of WHS poli­cies. Nor will he point to any quick-fix gim­mick on the road. He won’t even point to the safety-as­sured ac­cred­i­ta­tion, AS4801, which cov­ers all five of its de­pots, or to the 18-month slog it took him to get the busi­ness is­sued with a Ma­jor Haz­ard Fa­cil­ity li­cence. Ask him why his busi­ness is so safe and he’ll point

to his head. “Safety,” he says, “is a mind­set. It’s about be­lief.”

Be­lief is a word Dunn uses a lot. Be­lief that you can con­stantly do things bet­ter, even if you’re al­ready at the top. Be­lief that sys­tems need to change if you want your work­ers to go home safely to their fam­i­lies each day. Be­lief that if you in­stil the right at­ti­tude in your peo­ple then they will do the best pos­si­ble job for you.

Dunn has a favourite say­ing: A good busi­ness is a safe busi­ness, and a safe busi­ness is a sus­tain­able busi­ness. He’s dif­fer­ent. Not many manag­ing di­rec­tors would say they lie awake at night wor­ry­ing if they haven’t had a near-miss re­port made in a while. Most would think it’s great news. But Dunn is weary of com­pla­cency. He’s knows the mo­ment you let your guard down is the mo­ment tragedy can strike.

Many busi­nesses make boast­ful safety claims but few have the ac­co­lades to back them up. Dunn says the fact FBT’s MHF li­cence comes with no con­di­tions recog­nises the re­sults of its safety phi­los­o­phy: “We store around 600 tank con­tain­ers of dan­ger­ous goods. To get that no-

con­di­tions li­cence granted is a huge thing for us; it shows we’re com­mited 100 per cent to safety.” FBT Tran­swest is a for­mer win­ner of the

Vic­to­rian Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion’s ‘Best Safety Prac­tice’ award, and is rou­tinely held up as a shin­ing ex­am­ple of how things can be done. There’s a cer­tain irony, of course, that a busi­ness spe­cial­is­ing in dan­ger­ous goods is so safe. The busi­ness carts high-con­se­quence goods, food and dan­ger­ous goods, and spe­cialises in bulk stor­age pri­mar­ily for liq­uids and dry bulk.

It’s risky stuff, but Dunn says ev­ery­thing we do in life is risky – the key thing is how you man­age those risks.


“My be­lief is we can pre­vent all in­juries,” he says. There’s that ‘be­lief’ word again, turned into re­al­ity by Dunn. And it’s clearly no fluke.

“To have an LTFIR of zero is world class. It means we’re not get­ting any lost-time in­juries. Peo­ple ask me how I’ve done it, be­cause I’ve done it at two busi­nesses now,” he says.

One of the ways he does it is by hold­ing a two­day ‘be­lief work­shop’ for all em­ploy­ees, where ev­ery as­pect of life is pre­sented within the frame of safety. The work­shops are on­go­ing, rolling round as new em­ploy­ees roll in; mak­ing sure no one misses out on their in­duc­tion into the safety cul­ture of the busi­ness.

“We’re get­ting into our em­ploy­ees’ heads, chal­leng­ing peo­ple’s be­liefs,” Dunn says. “That’s the start­ing point.”

The work­shops talk about what hap­pens at home as much as what hap­pens at work. Do

you mow the lawn bare­foot? Do you pick up the phone while driv­ing a truck?

“It’s about per­son­al­is­ing the mes­sage. That’s why we’ve been suc­cess­ful, be­cause these be­lief work­shops get down into peo­ple’s core,” he says.


FBT Tran­swest has gone with Volvo FM as its prime mover of choice, for one main rea­son, its safety: “It’s the safest truck I can get. There’s no cab that’s safer in the world.”

Hav­ing a mod­ern truck with Volvo’s I-Shift au­to­matic man­ual trans­mis­sion (AMT) means Dunn doesn’t have to find driv­ers with ex­pe­ri­ence driv­ing man­ual. In fact, he doesn’t even look for ex­pe­ri­ence when hir­ing driv­ers, he looks for some­thing else. “I hire for at­ti­tude, not ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says. “You want driv­ers con­cen­trat­ing on the road and not wor­ry­ing about if they’ve missed a gear change. That’s why I love the I-Shift trans­mis­sion. It also means our driv­ers aren’t get­ting fa­tigued or in­jured.”

The safety fo­cus ex­tends to drop­ping the trucks 100mm lower to the ground, to get a lower cen­tre of grav­ity for the liq­uids they cart, re­duc­ing the static rollover thresh­old.

Vaw­drey Aus­tralia sup­plies the trail­ers, which are fit­ted with elec­tronic brak­ing sys­tems and disc brakes, as well as drive-away pro­tec­tion

(the trailer can’t roll if a hose is con­nected) and re­flec­tive con­spicu­ity tape, part of a joint ini­tia­tive with 3M and the VTA to bring high-vis­i­bil­ity tape

to the en­tire fleet of trucks and trail­ers.

“None of this stuff is cheap,” Dunn says. “But it means when I put a hu­man be­ing into a ve­hi­cle I give them the best pos­si­ble chance of go­ing home safely at the end of the day.”


“The is­sue I see with the in­dus­try at the mo­ment is that gov­ern­ments don’t want to in­vest in the agen­cies, and they think the in­dus­try will sel­f­reg­u­late. I’ve been in the in­dus­try for 32 years and I can tell you it’s not go­ing to self-reg­u­late.” Dunn is pas­sion­ate about en­sur­ing the right sys­tems are in place across the busi­ness to make it harder for rogue op­er­a­tors to com­pro­mise

on safety, but this comes down to mak­ing the cus­tomer ac­count­able, too. He wants to see cus­tomers who set the con­tracts with trans­port com­pa­nies held ac­count­able for the de­ci­sion­mak­ing process they go through when award­ing

That’s why we’ve been suc­cess­ful, be­cause these be­lief work­shops get down into peo­ple’s core.

those con­tracts. “It’s all very well to talk about the chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity, but do you know how hard it is to pros­e­cute a big cus­tomer who’s made

the choice to use a cheap con­trac­tor who cuts cor­ners?” he asks.

“My be­lief is that if some­one gets killed then a judge should be able to com­pel that cus­tomer who chose ‘Joe Blogs Trans­port’ to show their rea­son­ing on why they gave that op­er­a­tor the con­tract. And if it’s be­cause he was the cheap­est, know­ing that he uses cheap labour, over­works

his driv­ers, doesn’t pay them prop­erly, then the manag­ing direc­tor should go to jail.

“So if you’re go­ing to talk about chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity you’ve got to talk about the whole chain.”

Dunn says min­i­mum stan­dards need to be en­forced on the road.

“Gov­ern­ments have to put more money into en­force­ment agen­cies,” he says.

“There are only 35 VicRoads of­fi­cers in Vic­to­ria, com­pared with 350 of their equiv­a­lent in NSW. Po­lice should be able to con­cen­trate on catch­ing crooks, not pulling up and check­ing trucks, and WorkSafe doesn’t have the power to pull up trucks. In­stead of cre­at­ing more sys­tems we should be en­forc­ing the law, or do you wait un­til there’s an­other big ac­ci­dent?”

Dunn says his peers might hate him for ad­vo­cat­ing more en­force­ment.

“Bring it on, I say. It makes my busi­ness bet­ter. Pull up the trucks.”

But a holis­tic ap­proach is the only one that Dunn can see work­ing: “It comes down to re­ward­ing busi­nesses who do things well. “How do you re­ward those busi­nesses? You make sure the eco­nomic de­ci­sion-maker – the

cus­tomer – choses trans­port com­pa­nies that are safe. Hold them to ac­count.”


De­spite the well-pub­li­cised driver short­age, FBT Tran­swest has driv­ers knock­ing on the door con­stantly, want­ing to join the team. It means Dunn can choose the best.

But a lot of com­pa­nies don’t have that lux­ury, which is why he wants to see the licencing process for truck driv­ing to be over­hauled, to en­cour­age more peo­ple into the in­dus­try.

“At the mo­ment, to get your car li­cence, you need to clock up 200 hours be­hind the wheel. But to get your truck you don’t need any hours at all, you just need to pass a test,” he says.

“So that’s a prob­lem straight up. But then once you have your li­cence, it takes years un­til to move up through the licencing process to get your B-dou­ble li­cence and fi­nally earn some de­cent money.”

Dunn wants to see a path­way whereby young driv­ers can be driv­ing B-dou­bles ear­lier, but with much bet­ter train­ing.

“Give an 18-year-old a three- or four-month in­ten­sive course in driv­ing B-dou­bles,” he says.

“If they then pass that exam then they should be able to drive a B-dou­ble straight away.

“Give them that path­way to earn de­cent money early on in their ca­reer. Then, all of a sud­den, it be­comes a much more at­trac­tive oc­cu­pa­tion. You’ll at­tract more peo­ple and the driv­ers will be much safer, be­cause they’ve been in­ten­sively trained through a com­pe­tency-based path­way.”


If there’s one thing Dunn wants to em­pha­sise with safety, it’s that there’s no one thing. No on­estop shop, no sil­ver bul­let.

But if the sys­tems are right from the top down then we all have a bet­ter chance of get­ting home safe ev­ery day.

“I’m con­stantly look­ing at my fleet, look­ing around my yards, look­ing at my em­ploy­ees and think­ing, ‘what else can I do to im­prove?’ You can’t sit back and pas­sive, you’ve got to be proac­tive.

“In­stil a cul­ture of safety, so that your work­ers are mo­ti­vated to fill in near-miss re­ports, so that they come and tell you they no­tice some­thing not quite right, and so they tell you if they’ve been in­jured.

“No one feels threat­ened at FBT Tran­swest. It’s a no-blame cul­ture,” he says.

Above: FBT Tran­swest’s haz­ardous goods yard in Mel­bourneOp­po­site: FBT Tran­swest manag­ing direc­tor Cameron Dunn

Above: FBT Tran­swest has a LTIFR of zero

Above: Dan­ger­ous goods on the go at FBT Tran­swest

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