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Collaboration in High Gear: Opening the Next Chapter in Motor Vehicle Safety

By Warner Williams, Vice President of Health, Environment and Safety
ChevronTexaco Corporation

International Association of Oil & Gas Producers Land Transportation Safety Workshop

London, England

I appreciate the opportunity to open this workshop today.

It was my privilege to help create the Land Transportation Safety Task Force of the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (OGP), and I want to thank Brian McCulloch and his committee for carrying on the task force's work by organizing this workshop.

This is important work, and I believe we're going to see a great return on our investment.

While I am happy to be here, I'm not happy about the reason.

Traffic accidents — and especially fatalities — remain a chronic problem in our business. The pie chart on our official program says it all — in 2001, 27 percent of the fatalities reported to OGP were vehicle-related.

We're stuck on a plateau, spinning our wheels, and we're in danger of rolling backwards. Solving this problem is our responsibility. But it's a very frustrating situation because so many factors seem truly beyond our control.

A contract driver in Nigeria runs head-on into a public bus.

A man dies in Egypt when he is struck by a wheel that comes off a tank truck.

A contractor is run over by a cement truck in Kazakhstan.

A truck carrying packaged lubricants runs into the back of another truck in Indonesia, and the passenger is killed.

All tragic, all preventable and all true. And the reports of serious accidents and ruined lives are certain to keep coming.

Knowing the Facts

Go for a drive in most countries, and you can see that economies are growing faster than roads and other infrastructure.

Consider these findings from the Harvard School of Public Health, the World Health Organization and others:

  • Ten years ago, motor vehicles were the seventh most significant cause of injury and death among all others, including disease. By the year 2020, they'll be No. 3, surpassing war and HIV.
  • Even today, motor vehicle accidents are responsible for 1 million deaths each year at an estimated cost of $500 billion, according to the World Bank's Global Road Safety Partnership. Most of that is borne by countries most vulnerable to rising motor vehicle accidents and least able to afford them.
  • Developing nations have just 32 percent of the world's trucks and cars, but they suffer 75 percent of the deaths on the world's roadways.

Within our own industry, motor vehicles cause one in every three fatalities. Looking at this, an outsider might assume that we're asleep at the wheel. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Consider the numbers that never make the headlines:

  • Tens of thousands of safe truck shipments occur each day.
  • Hundreds of thousands of employees and contractors have safe driving days at work — and then get home safe each day.
  • Millions of safe miles and kilometers are driven on and off our properties.

Even those of us in the energy sector take this performance for granted sometimes. But our amazing lack of accidents, of course, is no accident.

Knowing What to Focus On

Recently, one of our Health, Environment & Safety professionals produced a paper that — frankly — makes me proud to be a part of this industry. Like OGP's Land Transportation Safety Guidelines developed six years ago, the paper confirmed my belief that we know the right things to work on:

  • anti-lock brakes, seat belts, back-up alarms,
  • driver training,
  • audits and accident analysis,
  • improved signage and roadway lighting,
  • safety awards for drivers who honor our brands with their devotion to safety,
  • vehicle inspections, and
  • behavioral campaigns to make safety a family value.

In addition:

  • We have journey management programs to ask what is the safest time of day to drive — not just for traffic but for driver fatigue.
  • We have visible leaders — from the executive ranks to the refineries and oil fields — who take time to personally advocate safe behaviors. At Halliburton, managers used to spend about one hour in 20 on safety. One of their managers recently told us it's now one hour in five.

Looking for New Opportunities to Enhance Safety

Without question, our efforts have given us safer facilities. As for the public roads, it is well-documented that working on motor vehicle safety has reduced both injuries and deaths in industrialized countries. But we can't afford to be satisfied by pockets of safety performance.

So we have to look for new opportunities to enhance safety both internally — within our companies — and externally — in the outside world.

I've seen the potential of internal collaboration firsthand since Chevron, Texaco and Caltex came together to create ChevronTexaco.

It has been a primary objective of the merger to find and adopt best practices from each company in every part of our business and our culture. That has included creating a 14-member Motor Vehicle Safety Team. We're optimistic they'll take us to a higher level of performance.

But we also know that looking internally can get us only so far.

In recent years, the industry has worked harder to set competition aside and embrace cooperation externally. This workshop proves the trend.

The Land Transportation Safety Guidelines and other OGP efforts, such as the Strategic Health Management initiative, exemplify our strong spirit of collaboration.

And we have other examples to be proud of as well.

Shell's efforts in Oman, Thailand and Malaysia stand out. They've taken motor vehicle safety into schools, have connected with contractors, reached out to neighbors and partnered with law enforcement and government to set up training programs.

At the same time, the top service companies have set a high standard. Schlumberger's driver training and other programs in Nigeria are a well-known success story. And ChevronTexaco has successfully followed their example in that country with the recent addition of driver monitors.

Elsewhere, our downstream operations in Asia, Africa and the Middle East are collaborating with cartage contractors, requiring them to meet the standards of the Caltex Road Safety Management System. And we've partnered with a manufacturer to design and build the new Caltex advanced safety truck.

As for institutions, there is probably no better example of collaboration than the Global Road Safety Partnership, which I mentioned earlier. I know that our members who are directly involved will help make it a model for future programs.

Shifting Collaboration Into High Gear

Certainly, what we've done so far has been important. But in the world of traffic, the only way to be safer is to be safer together.

Clearly, if we want to open a new and more positive chapter in the story of motor vehicle safety, we have to shift collaboration into high gear.

We need more exchanges of tools and best practices. We need to join forces on resources, programs and projects. We need to collaborate more in all directions: with government, the driving public, communities, universities and automakers. And we need to work more closely with our partners in the national oil companies.

If you break our business down to the basics, mobility is our main reason for being.

Safe roads, like energy itself, enhance regional economies and quality of life. Unsafe roads do the opposite.

So, motor vehicle safety is not just a stubborn problem for us. It's part of a growing challenge to our value — as both partners and citizens — which will ultimately determine the course of our business.

True, drivers, themselves, will always be most responsible for safe driving. Governments will always be most responsible for safe roadways. Automakers will be held most accountable for safe vehicles. But no one is more deeply invested in the whole picture than we are.

By doing more to improve motor vehicle safety, we can help prove our industry's good character to a skeptical world. As long as business and the public are safely in motion, it is likely that our industry will be, too.

One of our managers — Ron Holton — has a saying: "If you see something unsafe, you own it." Yes, that's idealistic, but part of our job is to imagine the world we could have if everyone felt that way.

Do I believe we will ever completely solve the traffic safety problem? No, I don't. But I absolutely believe that extending our safety culture beyond the workplace can make a difference where the dangers of motor vehicles are greatest — both to us and to the public.

The space that we share with the rest of society is certain to remain our biggest challenge. And this space is ours not to command and control but only to influence and enhance.

Working with governments, we can help address the quality of roads. Partnering with regulators and institutions, we can contribute to driver training and awareness.

Teaming up as an industry, we can present a united front to host countries, help shape public policy and advocate improved laws and enforcement.

We can help manufacturers create future generations of trucks and cars. And we can expand the reach of driver training and share costs.

By appreciating the full potential of collaboration and acting on it, we can begin to uncover new possibilities for reducing motor vehicle accidents. And those possibilities are without limits.

Committing to a Leadership Role

In our sessions today and tomorrow, we will look at the hard numbers and ask ourselves. Which way do we turn now?

Of course, we will turn again to all those methods we know to be effective. But we must also turn to each other, to our fellow professionals on our left and right. We must turn to the wider world and build bridges between our industry and everyone who shares our concern for motor vehicle safety.

But for those of us here today, collaboration must be more than a strategy. It must be a leadership commitment. We are the ones who must open this new chapter and shift collaboration into high gear.

Without collaboration, I'm convinced we will see darker days ahead for us in motor vehicle safety. But by working together, there are countless lives we can protect and injuries and losses we can prevent.

Let's make sure that five years from now, when we look back on this meeting, we can say we did everything we could do.

Thank you very much.

Updated: December 2002