For the transport industry, road safety is never far from top of mind. This year in particular, it’s been a major focus. It’s why the Australian Trucking Association held the first-ever fatigue hackathon to find a solution for driver fatigue, The Centre for Road Safety and Transport for NSW launched a campaign to raise awareness of road rules, and Teletrac Navman called on drivers to share their top tips for sharing the road with heavy vehicles.
Yet for many drivers, the realities of fatigue, speeding and other risky behaviours don’t become clear until it’s too late. Solutions Specialist Chris L’Ecluse learned this the hard way in his past life as a police officer and driver trainer. Since then, he’s worked alongside drivers to find out how we can get to the root of the problem: changing unsafe behaviour.
Facing the reality of road trauma
After joining the police force in the late 1980s, Chris was put on traffic duty to learn the ropes. This involved the usual – pulling over vehicles and handing out tickets for illegal behaviour. “Very early on, I realised that the penalty system was necessary, but it wasn’t enough. People get angry and sometimes they drive off even more dangerously”, he says. “When I actually talked to people, it became clear that often they didn’t know they were doing anything wrong. Maybe they weren’t aware of a rule, or they panicked in an unpredictable situation. I realised, why don’t we try and educate people instead?”
After many different roles in the police force, Chris moved into crash investigation. “That’s where it really hit home”, he says. After years working with the perpetrators of traffic infringements, suddenly he was faced with the victims, who were often seriously or fatally injured.
“I started to think – how can we allow innocent people, just going about their ordinary business, to be killed in this way? And it reinforced my resolve to educate people about road safety.”
Paving a road to driver education
It wasn’t until he had moved out of traffic patrol that he realised this was an inescapable part of his life. Working in dignitary protection for then-Prime Minister John Howard, Chris found himself driving back to the office late at night, after completing his duties – and was the only protection officer still pulling drivers over for traffic infringements. He knew then that educating drivers was a life-long mission.
Moving into Advanced Defensive Driving training, Chris consulted with businesses in the mining and resources sector. It was here that he was introduced to the role of telematics in their fleet, and the ability of the technology to improve safety. His work at Teletrac Navman now combines his passion for education with his experience in law enforcement, allowing him to interpret the legislation and work with businesses to meet their compliance requirements by analysing their telematics data.
While compliance is often the main objective for businesses when it comes to improving behaviour on the road, Chris says they’re approaching it from the wrong angle. “I look at it as: how do we make drivers safer for their own sake, as well as everyone on the road. In turn, that will ensure they’re compliant.”
A close partnership with drivers is at the core of his role. “In the past, the industry has been focused on giving executives the tools to identify dangerous driving behaviours. What’s been missing is the interaction with drivers. It’s become apparent to me that most people really believe they’re good drivers. They simply don’t know about their risky habits because no one has ever presented them with the data.” He now works directly with both drivers and management to teach them how to make sense of the information and provide solutions on adjusting their behaviour.
Nurturing innovative ideas
It was this unique approach and skillset that he brought to the table as a FatigueHACK mentor. His experience in law enforcement and work with businesses on their driver policies, operating procedures and risk assessments provided participants with a stack of insider industry knowledge.
“Finding a solution for driver safety is about thinking outside the box”, he says. “There are fantastic existing solutions but vehicles are still falling off the road and we’ve got to address that. We need to get people home safely. With the spotlight firmly on safety this year, I’m very excited to see what we, as an industry, can deliver.”