Effective means of communication are paramount to ensure that drivers and their employers are fully aware of the dangers associated with road transport and have a good understanding of what can be done to improve safety. However, for a number of reasons disseminating information within the road transport sector is particularly challenging. The majority of companies are small enterprises employing fewer than 10 workers and many drivers are self-employed. Drivers often work away from a fixed base, and many have long experience and are used to very independent ways of working.

This independence coupled with the highly competitive nature of the road transport sector can also make drivers and their employers reluctant to implement new ways of working. Drivers have a tendency to trust their own experience most, and are reluctant to accept occupational safety and health (OSH) advice from outside bodies, even if they are aware of it. And there appears to be a lack of communication on OSH between drivers and their employers and managers or, in the case of owner-drivers, the companies that contract them. Those working in road transport are more likely to take notice of practical and visual information, provided they see it as relevant.

The examples featured in the report used a variety of approaches:

  • 44 cases used an individual approach, with the aim of modifying knowledge or attitudes; this approach requires relatively few resources and can be a cost-effective way of reaching a large population;
  • 12 cases used a collective approach, with the aim of making structural and/or cultural changes; this approach has often proved to offer significant OSH improvements;
  • 4 cases used a concerted approach, which aimed to modify both knowledge and attitude, whilst also striving to initiate structural and cultural change; this approach requires more resources, but is considered to have the greatest effect.

From the examples, a variety of success factors can be seen and suggestions made, which can be divided into a number of interrelated key issues:

  • using an evidence-based, risk management-based and practical approach;
  • giving special attention to reaching the target audience;
  • engagement and partnership;
  • tailoring actions to the audience;
  • using a variety of measures and media.

The characteristics of drivers mentioned above, such as their expertise and independence, have various implications for communication such as:

  • using places they frequent — truck stops on highways, etc.;
  • ensuring approaches are practical but not patronising;
  • ensuring that advice and solutions are based on drivers’ practical experiences; using drivers as advocates;
  • involving drivers intimately in solutions — solutions need to be developed by drivers for drivers (using participatory methods) to incorporate their experience and to gain their acceptance.

The report suggests that engagement and partnership should go beyond drivers. Targets may need to include employers, managers, vehicle operators, loading staff, and both receivers and dispatchers of goods. Partnerships may include OSH organisations, road transport sector stakeholders including social partners, and road safety organisations. Some activities may be targeted generally at drivers’ families and the general public.