Compliance and safety
Compliance enforcement costs are multiplied in return, but does it translate into safety?
THOUSANDS OF HEAVY vehicles intercepted, millions of dollars expended on stopping and inspecting them, tens of millions in revenue collected, and potentially billions in revenue lost to our economy. All with no real understanding as to the benefit it delivered to preventing road trauma in the heavy vehicle industry. Something must change in regards to this enforcement mindset.
Given the staggering amount spent on compliance efforts by regulators—the training programs, hotlines, and other systems designed to prevent and detect breaches, is industry not entitled to see a direct benefit and know the outcomes it is achieving?
For highly regulated industries – like transport – the real costs are in the hundreds of millions, and ultimately consumers pay for these costs in higher prices. The reality is, assessments of the cost of on-road compliance activity to the transport industry deeply underestimate the true costs to the community, because training and other compliance activities consume thousands of valuable employee hours every year.
Many in the transport industry are increasingly frustrated about the growing and immense compliance costs without seeing the benefits. Yet enforcement agencies continue to conduct extensive on-road compliance activity because they think it influences reducing road trauma. These types of draconian operations have become a box-ticking exercise to placate a gullible populace that this inordinate expense is delivering road safety outcomes.
The literal tragedy is there is no evidence being produced it is effective, and it all can be avoided. There are an incredible number of issues and challenges surrounding enforcement agency perceptions of on-road compliance. Research is required to ascertain how well on-road compliance activity is working and explain the benefits to reducing road trauma. Enforcement agencies must be able to demonstrate they have the right measures and to advise industry what works and what doesn’t.
What is the answer? It is in better measurement of these on-road activities. Enforcement agencies can’t conduct compliance activities without having effective performance-measurement tools. Creating better measurement can result in appropriate resource allocation and targeted enforcement leading to more effective outcomes and reducing road trauma.
BETTER COMPLIANCE MEASURES
Enforcement agencies and the heavy vehicle industry must get better at identifying the right measures within their business if they are to improve safety. Compliance programs can be viewed as an insurance policy not only for avoiding breaches, which improves the bottom line, but ensures drivers return home.
Any compliance program must have substance and not be a series of tickboxes – flick-and-tick checklists are simply no longer acceptable. Every effort should be put into ensuring it is simply not a paper program.
At present, enforcement agencies have paper programs simply reporting the number of intercept and the breaches identified but not linking this back to injuries prevented and lives saved.
Producing massive binders of policies and procedures that list reams of controls is also not adequate. Evidence is required that those policies, procedures and controls have been measured and track the number of breaches. Importantly, that means collating the outcomes and how those breaches were addressed and the actions you took to ensure they weren’t repeated. This is not simply about reprimanding offenders over and over again for the same offences – it’s about preventing them from occurring.
OUTBOUND JOURNEY RISK
Recording the number of reprimands issued and those re-trained or prosecuted is not an effective measure of performance. This is not a measure of the compliance effort but an outcome of discovering a breach. How did you improve the risk-management processes to stop it happening in the first instance or, indeed, again?
Don’t selectively pick and report data to provide supporting evidence that your compliance program is effective – numbers of breaches doesn’t measure effectiveness.
For example, of what interest is the number of fatigue breaches detected? It indicates the propensity for offending no doubt but this is hardly an indication of the likelihood of a fatigue incident occurring. Clearly the more breaches recorded would indicate an increased likelihood of an incident occurring but at what level of fatigue, when, at what stage of the journey or shift?
National Transport Insurance data indicates that 68.9 per cent of outbound heavy vehicle journeys represent the highest fatiguerelated incidents. This points to poor driver preparation and insufficient management practices to assess pre-trip preparedness, not the driving task itself. It’s about understanding which type of fatigue (minor, major, severe or critical) is more likely to result in an incident. This may require asking drivers to record all near-miss incidents and correlating this back to driver work diary records, providing information to determine date, time and location within the shift.
It can be challenging determining how to transform a paper program into a compliance program of substance.
The focus should be on assessing the effectiveness of the compliance program. For example, addressing a breach by a driver is important but was the manager also held accountable for the breach?
You must recognise and address data that indicates a failure in meeting your safety objectives.
Training is seen as one of the most effective measures of a safety management system. All companies measure completion rates and even the total number of hours spent on training per employee, assuming it is effective if most employees finish it.
Using completion rates as a measure does not reflect the quality of the training nor how much employees put it into practice.
Just because it has been conducted does not mean it is effective. This applies equally to enforcement agencies which report on the number of information sessions and attendees and laud it as a demonstration of the adequacy of their program.
To assess your program and determine if your compliance program is using the right measures, there are several things to be aware of in designing it.
When deciding on good metrics, you must consider whether they are complete and record the whole compliance story.
Recording the numbers of breaches and sanctions and who was retrained is a good point to start. However, a more complete metric would be to record how many breaches did not result in disciplinary action.
It is common to routinely record highrisk breaches and let lower risk breaches go unattended or remain unrecorded.
LINK TO SAFETY OUTCOMES
The primary purpose of any compliance program is to ensure you understand that your safety objectives are being met.
Are we preventing near misses and injury effectively and if so how? What data (metrics) do we collect that validate the safety program’s effectiveness?
If you are unable to link your compliance program to safety outcomes, you are recording and measuring the wrong things.
How can you assess if training, policies and procedures have been effectively implemented? A company that does not report all breaches and all sanctions has a culture that condones particular risky behaviours. These behaviours translate to the way people work every day. Despite that an employee has acknowledged they attended training or have read (and understood) policies and procedures, it is not evidence they are implementing them.
How you deal with minor breaches is important but of more importance is that you have recorded them and taken action. It’s about action, not ticking boxes.
“Draconian operations have become a box-ticking exercise to placate a gullible populace.”
DANIEL ELKINS has a wealth of experience in the safety and assurance (compliance and enforcement) space, is a safety accelerator and one of Australia’s foremost progressive safety thinkers.