Influencing risk culture within the transport industry

A fatal tram accident, online retailers’ accusations of dangerous driving practices, and a conviction following a fatal road collision have pushed fleet operators and their risk management practices into the spotlight in recent months. As well as the human cost, there are wider implications for businesses, such as the potential impact on insurance premiums, reputational damage and the ongoing operational interruption — all of which can have a significant financial cost.

Traditionally, fleet risk management improvements focus heavily on procedures to prevent incidents and protect the organisation from potential claims. However, attitudes and behaviours also have a great influence on driver safety. People-related risk is one of the greatest uninsurable threats to fleet operators. The industry must seek more robust ways to prevent incidents by managing driver behaviour.

Strengthening driver screenings

Driver recruitment can rely too heavily on collating the minimum documentation on health and previous employment, and the efficacy of the interview process. Although time consuming and resource heavy, these processes alone cannot predict drivers’ attitudes towards safety.

New developments in occupational psychology are now available to strengthen driver screening – both for new and existing drivers — and as the impact of behavioural risk gains increasing attention, organisations are being encouraged to be more proactive in its management.

Rather than simply reviewing past performance, it is now possible to assess a driver’s natural tendency towards behaviours that underpin safety outcomes. Fleet operators have the opportunity to go beyond the interview process to identify and screen for the character traits that drive risky behaviour.

This helps predict how drivers will behave or react in particular situations in a way that interviews cannot, to create a more robust pool of drivers.

Understanding the driver’s perspective

Survey findings and driver screening assessments can provide insight into the factors influencing behavior

Alongside their individual risk-taking tendencies, drivers face many external factors which can influence how they respond in risky circumstances. Many of these factors relate to the workplace, and many pass unnoticed by management. An anonymous survey of drivers can provide a reliable presentation of employees’ attitudes and understanding of risk management procedures, as well as uncovering these factors. Do drivers feel undue pressure to meet deadlines?  Do they cut corners to meet customer or managers’ demands?

Supported by broader HR data – for example, performance management results and pay and incentive outcomes — survey findings and driver screening assessments can provide powerful insight into the factors influencing behavior.

Combining data for a more complete picture

Combining this data with ‘outcomes’ data such as telematics information, audit, claims and incident reporting data enables correlation analysis which can provide deeper insight into the effectiveness of the fleet risk management framework by linking external factors such as incentives, to driver behaviour which leads to specific risky outcomes observed.

In this way it is possible to make changes, guided by data, which positively influence driver behavior and reduce risk. For example, if a bonus programme is found to be pushing drivers to take otherwise unnecessary risks in order to maximize payments, the insight gained from data analysis can help reshape the bonus plan to ensure it is aligned with risk controls.

The potential financial benefits for the organisation are clear: a robust mitigation approach and fewer claims will have an impact on insurance premiums and retained costs. In addition, this approach to managing risk will significantly reduce the threat to brand and reputation, not least by the potential for fewer incidents.


For more information on risk culture, please contact your local Willis Towers Watson office of visit

About Alasdair Wood

Alasdair Wood is a Director in Willis Towers Watson’s Human Capital and Benefits team, based in London. He has 17…
Categories: Auto, Insurance and Risk Management, Rail | Tags: ,

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