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Mid-America Transportation Center

Safety Climate of Commercial Vehicle Operations

Final Report
click to download report


University of Iowa

Transportation Systems Engineering


  • Principal Investigator: Linda Boyle (
  • Graduate Students
  • Yan Zhang
  • Yiyun Peng
  • Project Status
  • Start Date: 6/24/2008
  • End Date: 12/31/2009
  • Sponsors & Partners
  • University of Iowa
  • About this Project
    Brief Project Description & Background
    The lack of inferential statistics has hindered a quantifiable hypothesis from identifying specific CVO programs that will significantly contribute to a better safety climate and demonstrate that the likelihood of success is not due to chance. The analysis proposed as part of this project will help identify non-programmatic factors that help cultivate or improve an overall culture of safety, such as leadership roles (within management and among CMV drivers).
    Research Objective
    The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) released the results of a CMV “crash predictor model” study (Murray et al., 2005) based on truck drivers' historical driving record data including specific violations discovered during roadside inspections, driver traffic conviction information, and past crash involvement. This study also identified effective enforcement actions to counteract issues related to driving behaviors and events. According to the states identified as having more traffic enforcement and lower crashes, successful enforcement strategies for addressing problem driver behaviors are those that exhibit one or more of the following components: creating aggressive driving apprehension programs/initiatives; focusing on both CMV and non-CMV driver behavior patterns; conducting highly visible enforcement activities; using a performance-based approach to identifying specific crash types, driver behaviors and locations; and conducting covert enforcement activities. Research such as this supports the premise that en route risk behaviors are initiated by drivers.

    Knipling et al (2003) has indicated that some carriers have become havens for, and even attract, unsafe drivers. Both empirical and anecdotal evidence, however, support that “safe” carriers – as defined by numerous metrics including SafeStat scores, safety awards and industry safety statistics – produce, attract and retain safe drivers. While all major components that make up the “safety climate” of a motor carrier have not been adequately studied in past research, specific safety factors and correlations that contribute to safety culture do exist. These include compensation schema (ATA); non-financial reward programs (Transanalytics, ATRI); and ISO 9000 certification’s nexus to safety (Naveh, 2003). Other industry sectors such as aviation, mining and heavy equipment manufacturing also contain safety-sensitive positions and have researched the tangible and intangible mechanisms that contribute to a positive safety environment.

    As part of a Commercial Truck and Bus Safety Synthesis Program (CTBSSP), Short, Boyle et al, (2007) synthesized the current available research and literature relating to safety culture. The study showed that there were specific ties between the available body of knowledge and the motor carrier industries. The effort also included a data collection component, consisting of convenience sample surveys and interviews of motor carrier safety managers and commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers, as well as case study data collected onsite, directly from motor carriers. The culmination of this report provided suggested steps for increasing safety culture through a series of best practices.

    The report made a first attempt at identifying and analyzing significant safety and non-safety programs and initiatives across relevant sectors that does or could create and support a positive safety culture within the trucking and motor coach industries. Some of the gaps identified in the report included (1) the possibility of a disconnect between expectations from a safety culture and those that exist within other professional cultures within the organization they operate in; or alternatively (2) the driver identifies strictly with the professional culture they operate under. These programs and initiatives resulted in a list of best practices with factors that are most likely to offer the greatest influence on developing and enhancing a culture of safety.
    Potential Benefits
    The expected results of this research project include quantifying the safety culture of trucks and motor carriers, and guidelines for a follow-on study with emphasis on the driver’s perceptions. Factor analysis of the survey data will enable insights to be gained on key characteristics for best management practices.
    Enhancing the safety culture within trucking and motor coach industries has become a key area of concern given the potential impact it has on crashes and overall safety. Many organizations recognize that safety is compromised if the culture within their organization does not promote safety. Unfortunately, the specifics of a good safety culture and the methods by which safety culture is fostered are relatively ambiguous. A key reason for this is the general lack of standardization of the highly qualitative term “safety climate”, within the trucking and motor coach industries.

    A survey completed by 31 organizations within these industries was completed as part of a Commercial Truck and Bus Safety Synthesis Program (CTBSSP) #14 Synthesis Team. The results provide some insights into the safety beliefs and attitudes of these drivers and the organizational needs to maintain a stable workforce and positive safety climate. The report provides descriptions of the data collected but lack any derived inferences that can help shape the safety culture.

    The expected results of this research project are the development of a set of key factors that capture the essence of a safety climate within the truck and busing industries. This will be achieved through multivariate statistical analysis of the existing survey data that has been made available to the principal investigator. The outcomes will provide insights for the trucking industry to communicate a safety culture to their employees and thereby translate into a stable workforce, and reduce truck crashes.
    Total Project Cost
    $ 25,844
    Modal Orientation
  • Environment
  • Highways
  • Safety and Human Performance
  • Technology Transfer Activities
    Technology transfer implementation for this project will include the final report with results submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal or conference proceeding. It is expected that at least one presentation will be prepared for the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, and if possible, to the US DOT – Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).