In 2015, the National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP) recognised the value of a national forum specifically for utility businesses from around the country. The sector is characterised by complex and diverse fleets and the forum provides an opportunity to identify common transport risks and contribute ideas as to how they may be mitigated. The first event was hosted by SA Water in Glenelg, Adelaide, and has become a strongly supported annual forum bringing together major utility organisations from around Australia.

Following on from the success of the 2015, Telstra hosted the 2016 forum in Melbourne, Water Corporation the 2017 forum in Perth and the 2018 hosted by APA Group in Sydney.

In 2019, the forum was held in Brisbane, hosted by Santos and was again strongly represented by utilities from across the country. The day prior to the forum delegates attended the QLD/WA Safer Together event with a number of speakers on various topics. This was followed by a presentation from David Bobbermen, Chair Austroads, The Seven Worldwide Disruptions and their Influence on Roads and Transport and promoted a vigorous discussion across the group.

The forum achieved the following key outcomes:

  • Through the Utilities Forum Template, which partners completed ahead of the day, an understanding of participants’ position within the group member organisations on a number of parameters from fleet size, management, technology profiles, safe driving systems and processes, IVMS, ANCAP rating, near misses, incidents and risk mitigation strategies and actions.
  • Acquired an overview of changes over time on several parameters included in the template, with a view to further developing this longitudinal tracking.
  • Understanding of key safety issues common throughout the participant group including;
    • Evidence of slow adoption and underutilisation of modern vehicle safety features which drivers primarily through lack of understanding and education;
    • Further action required to improve driver education on the use of safety features within modern vehicles, identifying the role of the manufacturer and dealership;
    • The issue of disconnect across the interface between fleet managers, HR and operational managers with regards to improving driver behaviours was raised as an ongoing gap with achieving better safety outcomes;
    • A further concern relating to this gap was the compliance and ‘tick the box’ with measuring driver behaviour risk as opposed to real effective improvements;
    • There was a consensus within the group that culture and leadership were the critical factors to deliver real outcomes from the vast amounts of data gathered, by ensuring that changes were agreed, actioned and followed-up.

At the conclusion of the forum, participants were asked to provide feedback on the event. A short questionnaire covering aspects of the profile template, workshop format, content and delivery was subsequently emailed to each of the participants.

Forum feedback has been immediate and positive on social media. Linkedin posts provided the following insights into the day:

“A great event that contributes to road safety year on year through active participation and knowledge sharing across the industry” – Chris Dhu Essential Energy

“Thank you for a brilliant forum, filled with great discussion, insights and passion” – Luke Byrnes Nestle

Overall feedback was overwhelmingly positive and the outcomes, comments and feedback documented during the event provide strong support for the continuation of the program in a manner and frequency to be determined by the working group.
The forum agreed that another will be held in 2020 with the date and location yet to be finalised.

Feedback from the forum included that;
‘There is no industry event or conference quite like the Utilities Forum. It is not about being talked to, but based entirely around discussion with peers underpinned by comprehensive data analysis and benchmarking. Understanding how different peers have addressed similar risks and issues which can then be applied is invaluable’. Further, comment was made that the forum was ‘a great opportunity to be part of’.