Safety Management: Motor Carriers Should Aim For Zero Preventable Incidents

Safety Management: Motor Carriers Should Aim For Zero Preventable Incidents

How do you climb a mountain? The answer: One step at a time. Whether it’s losing weight, building a successful motor carrier, or any other goal worth pursuing, persistence is key to success.

From a safety standpoint, one performance goal that is put on a pedestal is achieving zero preventable incidents over a given timeframe. This may seem like an unattainable goal due to the high-risk nature of the trucking industry, but it is not. In reality, working a day, week, month, quarter, or calendar year without experiencing any type of preventable incident is achievable depending on the path you choose for your company. That’s right, you, the leader of the organization.

Everything runs downhill, especially your company’s culture. Employees follow your lead, mimicking your actions, carrying out your orders, and adopting your values. If zero preventable incidents is your company’s goal, then you have to walk the walk and talk the talk to make that happen. Your employees will adopt whatever culture you create, and if incidents are acceptable—including the behaviors that lead to incidents—then you need to choose a different path for your organization.

Successful motor carriers understand that the path to zero preventable incidents requires persistence: a dogged determination to continuously improve. If you have gone a month or a year without an incident, ask yourself why. Was it because you had the management controls in place to achieve those results, or can it be chalked up to good fortune?

Persistent leaders will analyze performance data on a regular basis to identify opportunities for improvement. One tool to help in this area is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Safety Measurement System (SMS). Persistently monitoring your company’s results on a monthly basis may bring to light a negative trend in unsafe driving, maintenance issues, and Hours-of Service violations. These red flags also are known as leading indicators, behaviors that commonly lead to incidents. They are also signs of systemic issues in your organization, and if you do not take corrective actions, these issues pose a serious risk to your company.

Another act of persistence is to conduct incident investigations. While the goal is to prevent incidents from happening, sometimes you must look back to go forward. Analyzing past incidents and identifying the root causes may shed light on operational issues you were not aware of. For instance, loose hiring standards, ineffective training, and poor communication could have been factors in past incidents. They might also be the source of future problems if gone unchecked.

Remember, as Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Be persistent in your pursuit of zero preventable incidents and make the changes necessary to achieve this goal.


• Monitor SMS results regularly for negative trends.
• Set measurable safety performance goals and track your progress.
• Integrate safety into every aspect of the organization.
• Investigate all incidents and near misses.

Note: These lists are not intended to be all-inclusive.

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This material is intended to be a broad overview of the subject matter and is provided for informational purposes only. Joe Morten & Son, Inc. does not provide legal advice to its insureds or other  parties, nor does it advise insureds or other parties on employment-related issues, therefore the subject matter is not intended to serve as legal or employment advice for any issue(s) that may arise in the operations of its insureds or other parties. Legal advice should always be sought from legal counsel. Joe Morten & Son, Inc. shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss, action, or inaction alleged to be caused directly or indirectly as a result of the information contained herein. Reprinted with permission from Great West Casualty Company.