A Behavioural Safety Approach to Fleet Risk Management for Bus Companies

A major research programme undertaken by Academic Traffic Psychologists at Cranfield University led to the development of a personality-based emotional assessment of bus driver behaviour called the Bus Driver Risk Index™. The Bus Driver Risk Index™ is used by a number of bus companies in the UK and overseas to assess and identify high risk bus driver behaviour. Understanding the behavioural factors that are associated with the risk of bus crashes is the first important step to managing that risk. The Bus Driver Risk Index™ is now commercially available via the Cranfield University spin-out company DriverMetrics.

The research programme had five distinct phases. For Phase one, in-depth interviews with bus and coach drivers identified high risk behaviours and everyday traffic experiences. The Cranfield University research concluded that bus drivers are often under pressure when driving a bus or coach due to high and conflicting demands of the job and the lack of control over work pace and traffic situations. Bus driver’s reactions to time pressure, long shifts, and responsibility for passenger safety were found to be a function of individual differences – meaning that some drivers demonstrated a stronger response to the stress of bus driving than others.

For Phase two, bus and coach drivers were measured on standard instruments of individual differences in vulnerability to driver stress and choice of coping strategies. For Phase three, a large scale survey of bus and coach drivers revealed specific bus driver behavioural and coping risk factors associated with crash risk including, Fatigue Proneness, Relaxed Driving, Anxious Driving, Thrill Seeking, Emotion Focus, Antagonistic and Avoidance Coping. In Phase four test-retest reliability analyses showed that the Bus Driver Risk Index™ measures stable aspects of bus driver behaviour. Finally, Phase five demonstrated that the Bus Driver Risk Index™ achieved face validity, content validity, criterion related validity and construct related validity.  Results of this analyses indicated that the Bus Driver Risk Index™ is a valid measure of bus driver behaviour with predicted relationships with bus crash involvement, driving performance, absenteeism and staff turnover.  Individual differences in response to driving a bus or coach for work can be detected via the Bus Driver Risk Index™ and those drivers at greater risk of being involved in a bus crash can be identified for further education and training.

DriverMetrics advises bus companies on what interventions can be implemented via their fleet safety programme aimed at improving bus driver safety. One popular approach is for DriverMetrics to train the company’s trainers to accurately interpret the Bus Driver Risk Index™ profile and conduct a coaching conversation with the driver to design behavioural goals. For example the Bus Driver Risk Index™ may highlight that the bus driver tends to take risks when running late on a schedule and further to a coaching conversation the driver and trainer agree on a goal to maintain a calm and relaxed approach even when running late on a shift. The trainer then follows up on how well the goals have been achieved over the coming weeks and seeks further safety improvements by developing the next set of behavioural goals. Other companies prefer to implement our behavioural safety workshops or in-vehicle driver coaching.

Whatever interventions your company chooses to implement, it is important to ensure that the workforce endorse your fleet safety strategy to realise the desired improvements in bus driver safety. Senior management also have a responsibility to commit the resources required to make sure the programme is a success.

By Lisa Dorn