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