The aim of this thesis research was to find ways to improve safety in the heavy vehicle transport industry through the development of an evidence-based safety management system. This research was undertaken in light of disproportionate crash and injury risks associated with the heavy vehicle transport industry in comparison with other industries and other road users. The nature of the trucking industry presents some unique challenges for safety management at an organisational level. This thesis argues that a systems approach with evidence-based safety management elements can be developed into an intervention program that is likely to improve safety outcomes in the heavy vehicle transport sector.
Drawing from the knowledge from prior occupational safety and road safety research (Study 1), a study of safety management characteristics comparing those in good safety performing heavy vehicle operators and poor safety performers sought to synthesise the distinguishing features between them. Two empirical studies were conducted (Studies 2 and 3). The findings of these studies provided the basis upon which to build a safety management system (SMS) suitable for heavy transport vehicle operations. This process resulted in the identification of 14 safety management characteristics that have strong research evidence for inclusion in a safety management system (SMS) for heavy truck operations. These findings, together with analysis of sound theoretical models to underpin the SMS, were used to shape the SMS. The SMS features three spheres of management practices risk assessment and management, driver risk management and safety culture management. Drawing from the literature, a dynamic model of a safety management system is presented and explained. The original aim of this thesis research has been met, providing an evidence-based safety management system that is likely to reduce crash and injury risk when applied to heavy vehicle transport operations.