“In 2002 we had our peers from the UK and USA BP who were appalled by the conditions of the delivery trucks. Vehicle with safety standards were not an easy option within India at that point of time. The options were to import or to work with OE manufacturers. Castrol, through persistent efforts and support of OEMs, could bring in the change raising the safety standards of the vehicles,” says Shanker K, Road Safety Manager-Supply Chain of Castrol India. For bulk transport, petroleum tankers are generally used which would often result in overloading (since specific density of petroleum and lubricants is different). To avoid this overloading, Castrol, again with support of OE manufacturers and a designing company, designed a custom-made tanker specially for transporting lubricants.
Vehicle safety standards
Castrol has laid down stringent requirements for vehicles operating on its business. All trucks used for Castrol have to have OE fitted steel cabins with proper seats and seat belts with side under run and rear under run protections, GPS and ABS.
Castrol India mandatorily accepts only those vehicles which meet its minimum safety standards and every vehicle is checked before every trip to ensure its road worthiness before it is given a go ahead to embark on the journey.
More than 70% of road accidents occur due to driver error. It is important for a driver to understand the road condition, the environment, driving principles, vehicle dynamics and to be completely focused on the journey ahead.
Most truck drivers in India acquire their driving skills through road experience, starting off as driver assistants. The licensing system also allows for very basic levels of driving skills, resulting in inexperienced and unskilled drivers behind the wheels. To overcome this issue, besides the standard licence issued by the legal issuing authority, Castrol prescribes its own driving skills evaluation programme – accepting only those drivers who meet the skills and capability required by Castrol. In addition, every driver undergoes at least four training programmes which focus on skill enhancement, vehicle dynamics, emergency handling, fatigue management, other road user behaviour and defensive driving principles. Over the years, around 15,000 truck drivers have undergone Castrol’s driver training programme which has been done in collaboration with IRTE and Hubert Ebner. These drivers are ambassadors of safety wherever they go.
In addition, every driver is briefed and debriefed at Driver Management Centre at every location from where the driver begins and ends his journey. At the start of the journey, the driver is briefed about the journey he is about to undertake and the road conditions he can expect. The driving behaviour, safety performance and compliance are then monitored throughout the journey through GPS and this report is then discussed and the journey reviewed once the driver reaches the destination. “We have now shifted focus on monitoring more of technical elements — acceleration, deceleration, lane discipline or speeding — rather than on elementary details like fatigue or night driving which have already been streamlined. Night driving is totally banned for Castrol drivers,” adds Shanker. “Every journey is new and filled with many uncontrollable factors. So what is important is how well the uncontrollable elements can be controlled with the help of technology and proper mindset.”
Another crucial factor Castrol has addressed is the triangular relationship between the company, the transporter and the driver. It was essential to build relationship between the driver and the contractor who can talk business. “We do auditing of the transporters’ performance and the best ones are rewarded.”
Castrol India has undertaken journey risk assessment on all routes where its trucks operate. It includes mapping road dimensions, environment and accident statistics and based on this data, every kilometre is categorised into different risk zones. This data is incorporated into the GPS which forewarns the drivers about the risk zones they are entering.
Says Shanker, “Every accident that occurs is thoroughly investigated and the learnings shared with all concerned to ensure that there is no recurrence of similar incidents.”
A critical enabler of Castrol’s road safety programme is the support of the transport operators with whom Castrol works. According to Soren Malekar, Supply Chain Director, “This commitment to such high levels of road safety requires the collaboration of all stakeholders – the drivers, our transport operators, our road safety team and of course the entire organisation. We relentlessly pursue the highest standards of road safety – monitoring, measuring and are continuously evolving to meet the road safety challenges we face every day.”
In addition to the road safety programme for heavy duty vehicles, Castrol also runs a similar programme for its own employees, especially focusing on the 250 strong sales force that drives the company business every day. The company also promotes road safety amongst public at large through its Castrol Drive for Safety programme.
Castrol India is today recognised as a trail blazer in the area of road safety in India. The company’s efforts to promote road safety have been recognised externally with the company twice receiving the IRTE Prince Michael Award and the WIAA (Western India Automobile Association) Award – both for the outstanding work done by the company in promoting the cause of road safety. The company is however very clear that the road safety journey it has embarked upon is a never ending one.