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As Kachumbari Notes:  Even Seemingly Difficult
Interventions Can Often Reap Welcome Results

Coastweek -- In conversation with Kachumbari last week, he brought up the issue of matatus again, writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.

This time he was asserting that they were getting keen on being defensive in their traffic behaviour.

As he was talking I was hoping that what I conjured up in my mind about defensive behaviour is what most of us would be thinking as well.

In my mind, defensive behaviour is about taking precautions to avoid getting into dangerous situations on the road.

So, I started imagining that the matatu world was getting keen on defensive driving.

The thought of defensive driving took me back almost twenty five years ago when I had a significant job change and moved from my mainstream qualification to handle health, safety and environmental matters for a large manufacturing concern.

This concern was governed by global standards and one of my first jobs was to reign in the increasing number of accidents that were occurring in a very small fleet of vehicles.

These consisted of company allocated cars for the senior management, pool cars that were available for all to use, cars that had fixed company drivers that were used on company errands, commercial vehicles, forklifts, cranes, dumpers and motorcycles.

Only a large construction company would have had a bigger variety of road vehicles. My job was to reduce the number of annual accidents from sixty to below ten in one year.

The first thing was to define what a road accident was.

The one we took was that a road accident was when any powered vehicle (including motorcycles) struck or collided with another vehicle, stationary object, pedestrian or animal.

It did not matter whether there was damage or not.

There was a second qualification that was introduced – if the company vehicle was legally parked then any accident to it was not counted.

This covered when someone else hit your vehicle say in a defined parking lot or even when it had broken down on a road and you, as the driver, had deployed all the warning signs as required by law and the hazards were flashing and you were not in the car.

Using this definition and looking at historical data, the number of recordable accidents rose to slightly over one hundred.

The programme I put in place started with everyone - from the CEO to his driver - going through a defensive driving assessment.

The total employee population was three hundred and twenty and the number of drivers was two hundred.

This included the despatch riders using motor bikes.

One hundred and fifty drivers did not make the pass mark and of the fifty that did most were between fifty and seventy five per cent score.

Only five drivers scored better than eighty five per cent and could be considered to be defensive drivers.

Some twenty employees were considered unfit to drive due to their temperament during the test.

From this exercise, we then designed a personal intervention for every single person that was then required to drive on company business and then delivered the training and assessment within two months.

We also banned the use of motorcycles on any company business including any business conducted on our behalf by contractors.

The latter was not popular and some of our contractors were struck off the approved list when they complied on paper and were found to be still continuing to use motorcycles on business conducted on behalf of the company.

For the company, the exercise paid off.

In the first year of operation after all this activity was completed, the number of road traffic accidents – measured by the stricter definition above – reduced to seven.

There was no fatality, no major accident, and no major damage in the seven.

The direct accident costs as well as the insurance premium reduction resulted in a saving of ninety per cent of the same costs compared to the previous year.

We did not factor the “uptime” of employees that was available as a result of not getting injured or not having to spend time investigating accidents and also attending court as the case may have been.

In time the same standards were applied to the contractors that were engaged to work for the company and they were also required to report accidents in exactly the same manner as the company was doing.

Over time some of the contractors gave honest feedback that they were actually saving on costs in their operations and that the employee morale had improved drastically.

They were getting collateral benefits that we never imagined they would when we put the programme together.

It helped also bring the organisations closer towards working to a shared vision in their relationships.

As Kachumbari says, even seemingly difficult interventions can reap large benefits.

 

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