NFP Car Fleet Safety
10 March 2011 at 11:45 am
Not for Profit car fleets have a higher crash incidence than government or private fleet operators, according to Dr Sharon Newnam who has carried out the first major research project into Not for Profit car fleet safety in Australia.
In comparison to a 27% annual crash frequency benchmark in commercial organisation fleets, Not for Profit organisations have been found to have an annual crash frequency as high as 32%.
Dr. Newnam says given the significance of the NFP sector in the Australian economy, and increasing reliance on welfare service provision, there is a serious knowledge gap in the area of NFP car fleet safety.
Dr Newnam is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety in Queensland and The Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies.
Her three year research project set out to implement a multilevel fleet safety program, looking at driving behaviour and the safety of those volunteering their services, by developing regulatory frameworks to protect them from civil liability and ultimately reduce the costs associated with work-related crashes.
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Statistics show that work-related driving crashes are the most common cause of work-related injury, death, and absence from work in Australia, says Dr Newnam.
She says a hardening insurance market, increased litigation, Occupational Health and Safety and, civil liability legislation, worker’s compensation procedures, and compulsory third party motor vehicle insurance have demanded better fleet safety management across all organisations.
However she says the Not for Profit sector has struggled with the new employer regulatory frameworks and particularly the unique legal liability issues surrounding volunteers have caused particular problems.
Although there are some developments in workplace safety management to address vehicle and driver safety in commercial fleets, she says there has been no previous research about Not for Profit sector car fleets.
The research was carried out in partnership a major Not for Profit organisation in Queensland. The NFP has over 14,000 employees and volunteers and includes group structures such as older age drivers, domiciliary nursing car fleets, salary sacrificed executives and small organisations.
Additionally, Dr Newnam says the organisation is a unique sample in that it has a multitude of various vehicle types representative of the driving community (such as; sedans, station wagons, vans, and light trucks), varying aged road user groups, and remunerated and volunteer drivers.
Dr Newnam says an extensive review of the crash claims database to identify crash patterns found the majority of crashes were single vehicle crashes, which suggests that factors such as inattention could have been a contributing factor.
She says the major theme that emerged from the interviews with pooled vehicle drivers, executives with salary sacrificed vehicles, truck drivers, and volunteers was that fleet safety was not considered a priority by senior level management, and was not regularly discussed as a safety issue in meetings or when first starting in their position.
The results found support for factors such as, drivers’ perceptions of the safety climate, and their experience of workload contributing to unsafe driving behaviours.
In turn, driving behaviours were found to have a negative relationship with crash outcomes and loss of demerit points.
Dr Newnam and her research team designed ‘interventions’ that involved an interactive discussions with NFP drivers followed by three month and six month safety reminders.
She says the research has highlighted the need for cultural change programs within Not for Profits at senior and supervisor level to modify driver behaviour as well as regular driver safety programs.
She says the final phase of the research is aims to map and analyse the complex web of liability laws, and regulations. This includes workplace health and safety, workers compensation, civil liability statutes, compulsory third party, common law, traffic laws, volunteer protection acts, insurance law and common policies, and government community service agreement terms.
As well, she says particular attention will be paid to volunteer drivers and volunteer liability protection legislation, the boundaries of workers compensation, compulsory motor vehicle insurance, and OHS provisions for Not for Profit enterprises which appear to confusingly overlap at certain points.
Overall, Dr Newnam says the research has received very positive outcomes and confirmed and challenged previous beliefs on work-related driving safety, and produced interventions that have improved safe driving behaviour.