Any risk and safety-conscious fleet operator will know the importance of properly reporting and analysing accident data. It goes beyond defending claims, which is obviously important to the bottom line. More important is the ability to look at trends after the fact and see if remedial actions or training are required to avoid similar incidents in future.
As useful as this activity is, it’s still taking place after the fact. Something that governing bodies responsible for safety have understood for quite some time. That’s why they transitioned to investigating near-misses rather than accidents. This is routine in the airline industry and in more recent times, health and safety departments in factories, production facilities and warehouses put a lot of focus on.
Unfortunately, it is not routine in the logistics and transport industry, where our own research, as shown in Chart 1, highlights that a staggering 15% of respondents in our survey don’t even have an accident reporting process in place, never mind near-miss reporting. This is why industry organisations such as FORS have been specifying near-miss reporting as part of their auditing process to gain FORS fleet certification. But reporting on this critical area is difficult and policing it is equally difficult. Drivers don’t want to admit near misses and fleet managers struggle to report on it. However, perseverance in this area can yield tremendous benefits for fleet operators in lower risk, lower accident rates, lower insurance claim payouts, lower legal costs and lower admin overheads collating data after an incident.
A near miss is any situation where an accident was narrowly avoided or that could have led to an accident. So let’s look at a couple of examples:
Most people would easily recognise the first example as a near-miss, even if they did not report on it. However, the second example is just as valid as a near-miss. Had the driver not stopped and checked the tyres, an accident or injury could have been caused if the tyre exploded during the journey.
Many drivers and fleet operators take the attitude that because the accident never happened, no harm was done. In other words, they ‘got away with it’. If this is your attitude to near-misses then take Sir Winston Churchill’s famous words to heart…
Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
In other words, you never learn from them and so cannot avoid them in future. Again, let’s look at the two examples to explain this better.
In example 1 the driver is making progress down a dual-carriageway and someone begins to merge from the slip road. An advanced driver will have reviewed the potential hazard of the slip road and what vehicles are around them. If they then see another vehicle making its way down the slip road, they might move to lane 2 to allow the vehicle to enter safely. This means that advanced driver training (such as RoSPA or IAM) could be of benefit to your drivers to increase forward awareness and planning.
Example 2 is less about the driver and more about the depot/yard management. Reporting this incident would mean that an investigation would be carried out as to how and why the metal shards were left there. This would mean that a process for yard checks and clean-up would be put in place to avoid similar issues in future.
The first and main challenge is that your drivers may be somewhat opposed to this concept. If so, you should reassure them that the purpose of this is not as a witch-hunt, but to help educate and avoid similar issues in future. Ultimately, reporting near misses helps to avoid it happening to someone else. By definition therefore, if everyone reports near-misses then everyone will be better aware, better drivers and far safer, which means they should embrace it. However, you may need to update your employment contracts to include this requirement for drivers and to include the protections for them in doing so.
Secondly, you need to have a defined process for reporting that defines what needs to be reported and the specific details required.
Thirdly, how will you receive these reports? Will you use paper or an electronic system? Clearly, an electronic system is better overall, but involves a little more cost and the hardware to allow drivers to do it (which may simply be their own mobile phones).
Finally, unless you have a decent tracking, telematics and vehicle camera system installed, you are going to struggle to understand the detail of a near-miss and you will have to rely solely on your drivers to report them. For instance, a driver may not consider an event that caused him to execute a hard braking manouver, as a near-miss, so may not report it. If you had an independent way of seeing these events, you can proactively discuss them with drivers and determine if they are indeed near-misses that need reporting.
Here’s how a CameraMatics system like those offered by ProVision can help in reporting and reviewing near-misses.
In addition to CameraMatics, if you run a large fleet, you may find that you receive a high volume of alerts and perhaps too many to review. In this case there are services available that will review the data for you for a fixed fee per month and send on just those events that were real near-misses and accidents. This frees up your time and provides the data you need in a clear and concise way.