Learning from tragedy

How can tourism operators instil a safe driving culture?

The tragic incidents that occurred in the Hunter Valley over the weekend serve as a sombre reminder of the catastrophic consequences that can result from simple mistakes. Ten families are now grieving the loss of their loved ones, and an entire community is in a state of shock.

According to reports, the heavy fog that blanketed the area may have played a role, but ultimately, the responsibility for the overturned coach falls on the driver’s error. Preliminary investigations suggest that the driver had been boasting about his speed and was clearly not adapting his driving to the prevailing conditions.

In Australia, last year witnessed a staggering 38% of workplace fatalities occurring on the roads. Although specific statistics for road accidents in New Zealand are not readily available, we can use the Australian data as a gauge. It is important to note that under the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA), the definition of a workplace encompasses any location where work is conducted. Therefore, employers bear the responsibility of ensuring the safety of both their employees (including contract drivers) and guests.

Unfortunately, employers often assume that possessing a valid driver’s license equates to being a competent driver. However, the reality is that there are no requirements in place for P endorsed drivers to undergo any form of competency testing.

Numerous small-scale transportation operators in New Zealand adopt a somewhat nonchalant approach towards continuous driver training and, more broadly, road safety. During my visits to these operators, I frequently encounter safety management systems that lack comprehensive provisions for addressing road-related risks and providing ongoing training. As a business owner, what steps can you take to ensure that your drivers meet your expectations?

Implementing telematics as a vehicle monitoring system is crucial for tracking and assessing driver performance. Numerous telematic tools are available that can assist in this regard. However, merely installing such a system is not enough. It is equally important to provide drivers with regular feedback on their performance. This feedback serves a dual purpose: it offers drivers insights into their own performance and also communicates that their driving behaviours are under scrutiny, with any infractions being addressed. By fostering a culture that expects excellence, you can instil a sense of responsibility and accountability among your drivers.

Additionally, it is vital to have a comprehensive safe driving policy in place and ensure that your staff is well acquainted with its provisions. This policy should cover various aspects, such as minimizing distractions while driving, adhering to speed limits, and adjusting driving behaviours according to the prevailing road conditions. Regular training and reminders about safe driving practices can help reinforce these policies and ensure their effective implementation.

By combining telematics with a strong safe driving policy and regular feedback, you can create an environment that prioritizes driver safety and encourages responsible driving behaviours among your staff.

Recent coach crashes in NZ

  • 2022 – Warkworth – 1 fatality 15 injured
  • 2020 – Glenorchy 20 Tourists injured in coach crash. Young girl loses both arms.
  • 2019 – Mamaku 5 fatalities
  • 2019 – Eketahuna Charter bus crashes resulting in 10 passengers taken to hospital
  • 2018 – Turoa  – Coach crash 1 fatality
  • 2016 – Gisborne – Charter bus 3 fatalities