How Haulage companies can achieve a culture of safety: The ABC Transport experience

By Ranmilowo Ojalumo

Safety is a necessary precautionary measure taken to avoid a foreseen or unforeseen hazard. All over the world, every organisation has taken safety as important as the business itself; hence some of the companies have committed huge resources and effort in putting safety measure in place.

While safety in every work place is important, it is supposed to be an utmost priority of every player in cargo transportation. This was the trust of the 2018 edition of Haulage & Logistics Magazine Annual Conference & Exhibition (HAULMACE 2018) and this is in view of the fact that there has been huge loss of life and property in the past years on the Nigerian roads visa vis crashes caused by cargo vehicles.

While many people may have thought that safety in cargo transportation is not achievable, it has been revealed that it is possible to achieve a culture of safety; it only requires a deliberate plan and sustained effort. One of the pioneering and renowned transport companies in the country, ABC Transport PLC shares its experience at HAULMACE 2018 where it was obvious that a haulage company can actually achieve a culture of safety which will ultimately reduce crashes and resultant loss of life and property.

DGM, Traffic And Safety, ABC Transport Plc, Verere Tesman Regha (FRSC Retired) making presentation at HAULMACE 2018

While speaking in his presentation titled “Achieving a Culture of Safety in Cargo Operations on Nigerian Roads: The ABC Transport Experience”, the DGM, Traffic And Safety, ABC Transport Plc, Verere Tesman Regha (FRSC Retired), described safety as a state or condition of being safe and protected, adding that Safety is a necessary precaution taken against any danger or hazard that has been pre-determined to occur.

According to Regha, a culture of Safety is a product of individuals, group’s values, attitudes, competencies and patterns of behaviours that determine the commitments to an organization’s Health, Safety and Environment programs.

Regha said the culture of Safety is that restless act or acquired behaviour of making sure that any unsafe act or condition observed is never ignored. Once observed, the strong zeal to make sure that the danger or hazards discovered were removed entirely or brought down as low as reasonably practicable is actually a safety culture. Anything that is consistently done over many years in a community becomes a culture.

The Safety Expert however lamented that there seems to be no strong safety culture on Nigerian roads, pointing that majority of Nigerian roads are hardly motorable to the end. He also regretted that many drivers in Nigeria are illiterate such that they don’t understand traffic rules and regulations.

“Nigeria has about 108,000km of surface road but more than half are not maintained. Very high percentage of drivers are illiterates and do not understand the Nigeria traffic rules and regulations. The questionable mechanical condition of many vehicles used on our roads and the level of vehicle maintenance culture is another issue”, Regha said.

According to Regha, one of the moves that help ABC Transport to achieve culture of safety is the signing of Safety Policies, plans and procedures. He maintained that for a culture of safety to strive in an organization, there must be clear written documents on safety policy, plan and procedure which will act as a guide to all safety policy matters.

He said “Part of the ABC Transport Safety Policy statements signed by the MD/CEO, Mr. Frank Nneji (OON) reads: “Most of unsafe acts or conditions that result in accidents are attributed to ignorance of most companies’ Safety Policies, plans and procedures. A Safety ill-informed worker portends a crash waiting to occur, sometimes with fatal consequences. A part of the quality service policy statements also signed by Mr. Frank Nneji, MD/CEO says “We shall give priority to precautionary measures”.

Regha said the drivers are the raw materials needed for Cargo Transport Industry to move smoothly and profitably, hence the quality of the drivers matters a lot to ABC Transport Plc. He disclosed that any driver recruited in the company must as a matter of uncompromising policy pass through the documented process of Short listing of applications, using nothing less than three years driving experience and must not be less than 30 years and more than 45 years of age, written test – Literacy test, Practical driving test, oral interview and then, Medical test for successful candidates.

Other laid down process to achieve the culture of safety at ABC, according to Regha is initial Training/Induction of the newly recruited drivers at Drivers Training Academy of ABC Transport, 14 Modules of defensive driving, Workshop Training, Customer Service and Attitude Training, Attachment to older ABC cultured drivers for 2 months on road familiarization and ABC driving style, Safety Department assessment of drivers’ Trainers’ scores and comments before going to HR for processing of documents and background  checks, processing of guarantors’ forms where the guarantor swears a court affidavit before a temporary offer of appointment is given.

“There is also compulsory quarterly training. Training topics or subjects are chosen based on observed unsafe traffic acts or conditions, Quarterly route hazard surveys are discussed with the drivers, Weekly tool box Talks, Workshop vehicle maintenance training, Load managements training are carried out during this training period. Yearly non-accident bonuses awards are organised where drivers and wives who had no accident in the previous year are celebrated, driver’s monthly league based on driver’s KPI is carried out, 10 years bulk payment, Pension scheme health insurance scheme, and All Truck drivers must drop for seven days to rest (Paying the debt of fatigue) after every 10 trips. Also, All our transit terminals have drivers’ guest houses for their rests when on transit”, Regha disclosed.

He however disclosed that safety in ABC Transport Cargo haulage relies to a great extent on the proper maintenance of the company’s vehicles. “We carry out Prevention Maintenance on all our trucks based on a defined service interval, some of which are 5,000km, 10,000km or 15,000km. Brakes and Clutch systems checks are done at every workshop visit in view of the importance of the systems. We also carry out Predictive Maintenance. This is carried out when we perceive a premature failure of a vehicle component within a fleet of vehicles. Then, we replace the component on all other vehicles to avert transit failure.

“We also carry out corrective maintenance to remedy failures that have occurred so as not to further impair the vehicle’s operational reliability. This we do using genuine parts. Tyres are pumped in tyre cages. Tyres are checked regularly to ensure minimum thread depths and pressures are not exceeded. Rethreaded tyres are used only at the rear. The use of PPE is highly enforced. Used oil are collected centrally and disposed responsibly. Speed Limiters are installed on our vehicles and they help to reduce fuel consumption. We have Vehicle Inspection Officers in all our workshops to sustain our culture of   Safety and reliability. We have major workshops spread across our operations routes. Every Transit Terminal (Rest Point) has one or two resident mechanic(s) and electrical technicians, Regha said.

Speaking further, Regha revealed that there is a safety and security committee headed by the MD/CEO with all the Heads of Divisions as members stating that the committee sits every second week of the month. According to Regha, the committee is saddled with the responsibility of carrying out Root Cause Analyses of all accidents, incidents and security matters that may have occurred during the past month. Any staff especially crew found guilty is punished using the Company’s Sanction Grid. This is for objectivity of all matters brought before the committee”.

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