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Graham Hurdle blog: 27 October - Planes, trains and automobiles

Date: 27 October 2015

Graham Hurdle is managing director of E-Training World

Planes, trains and automobiles. What's a key difference between these 3 modes of transport? Well, of course, there are many - but lets focus on their treatment in the event of a crash.

For the plane, a meticulous accident investigation would take place. How did it happen? Was the pilot at fault? Was there a mechanical failure? Did the weather contribute?

For the train - very similar to the plane. A thorough interrogation of the cause.

For the company car? Rarely any formal investigation and, assuming there are no serious injuries, the driver is given another vehicle within a day or so while theirs is repaired.

Of course, some companies carry our post-accident investigations. But many don't. So why do so many people treat car accidents lightly, when other forms of transport are placed under such scrutiny?

The simple answer is numbers and profile. If a plane or train crashes, hundreds of people could be killed or injured and it's on the national, if not global, news. Yet far more people are killed and seriously injured in road crashes than are killed and injured in planes or trains.

Lets look at some figures. Around a third of road crashes in the UK are work related incidents, which equates to about 600 deaths per year. If 600 people died in air and rail crashes in the UK each year, these forms of transport would be under phenomenal scrutiny and the operators under incredible pressure legally and morally from the public and authorities.

Approximately 96% of vehicle collisions are down to human error, which means they are avoidable.

But even though the vehicle statistics are heavy, the attention many companies give to investigating accidents is relatively light - even though, like the airlines and rail operators, they are using transport for their work activities.

Perhaps companies looking to implement a programme of managing occupational road risk (MORR) should look at their vehicles as planes and their drivers as pilots.

With that in mind, would you allow a pilot to fly their plane if it wasn't in perfect condition or no-one knew if it had been properly checked for its safety that day?

Would you allow a pilot to take off if they had very little sleep or had been drinking the night before?

Having passed a basic learners test perhaps 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago, would you allow them to fly with no further training or without even assessing their competence?

Of course not, but many companies are doing just that with their at-work drivers.