IRF Geneva leads UN road safety meeting

The International Road Federation (IRF) in Geneva convened key industry leaders to discuss “Action for Road Safety: Private Sector Leadership” on the occasion of the UN High Level Meeting on Global Road Safety hosted in New York
Enforcement / October 5, 2022
IRF Geneva Vision Zero road safety United Nations
IRF Geneva: 'Action for Road Safety: Private Sector Leadership'

The new Global Plan for the Decade of Action clearly spells out that saving millions of lives and avoiding an estimated 50 million serious injuries per year will require significant commitment and greater action from everyone, including that of the private sector. For the latter, road safety is no longer just a risk that can severely impact business, but a value and a key pillar of a vision that sees companies fully engaged with their employees and the communities in which they operate.

“We have a golden opportunity to inspire a strong and renewed worldwide commitment to safer roads for all” said IRF president, M Anouar Benazzouz at the opening of the event which gathered - for the panel discussion - senior management representatives from 3M, Holcim, Michelin, and Unilever.

Speaking at the opening, Jacques Emmanuel Saulnier, general manager of TotalEnergies Foundation presented the Private Sector Road Safety Coalitions initiative which is being supported by the Foundation and has now been deployed in Tanzania, Morocco, and Pakistan and about to be also launched in Senegal, India, and Togo. “This initiative is rooted in the belief that road crashes are largely preventable and road safety is a shared responsibility” he said. Coordinated by IRF, the aim of the initiative is to federate private sector stakeholders to work together, in close collaboration with international institutions, NGOs, and local authorities to improve road safety via hands-on, impact-oriented, and scalable activities.

What can the private sector offer to improve road safety?

Often solicited only for financial contributions, the private sector has a lot more to offer. There are several areas of opportunity where companies can make meaningful contributions to road safety outcomes for their employees, contractors, and communities at large. Through innovation, thought leadership, early adoption and development of technology, marketing, and training, companies are uniquely placed to raise road safety standards and behaviours.

“The private sector is good at changing behaviour and raising codes of practice and can play a role in making road safety a priority” said Dan Chen, president of 3M Transportation Safety Division. “If we uniformly implemented safety criteria in our procurement, our own fleets, our freight and supplier base, it could have a significant impact” he stated.

“We divided by seven the number of deaths on our road trips, in seven years, this was done on 150,000 trucks, in 60 countries, doing 1.8 billion km,” echoed Holcim’s chief sustainability & innovation officer, Magali Anderson. “We did it by using two strong levers: training the drivers and monitoring their driving skills with some IVMS inside their vehicles. This allows real time coaching. This system also collects a lot of data on our driving routes, which are used to optimise our logistics, and is helping us reach our scope three target of reducing by 24% the co2/km/tonne transported. Transportation represents 15% of our total scope three,” she added.

“Safe, reliable roads and vehicles also mean satisfied customers and mentally and physically healthy employees” said Salik Muhammad, road safety manager at Unilever. A certified trainer himself, Muhammad outlined how capacity building and drivers’ training is one of the key priorities identified in Pakistan by the road safety private sector coalition. The country does not have a national driver licensing scheme, and so technology and training are allowing the company to monitor but also engage differently with the drivers.

How do we prioritise life and well-being?

Nicolas Beaumont, senior VP sustainable development & mobility at Michelin spoke on the company’s engagement towards youth and briefly introduced the VIA Road Safety Education Programme, developed jointly by the Michelin Corporate Foundation and the TotalEnergies Foundation. The programme has already reached 200,000 students and more than 1,000 schools around the world. 3M is also working with others to improve safety around schools. Through its School Zone safety initiative, the company has committed to improving 100 school zones globally by 2024.

“We are asking the governments’ delegations to prioritise the life and well-being of people over everything,” said Salik Muhammad in his closing remarks. “We have Race to Zero for CO2. We have Vision Zero for road safety. Both are important. It’s not either or,” echoed Nicolas Beaumont. A sentiment shared by Anderson, who stressed how we can address multi-dimension issues with one single step. She brought to the stage the example of Holcim’s Women on Wheels Programme, which is contributing to road safety and the global shortage of truck drivers by encouraging not only companies to hire more female drivers, but also by giving to those women the confidence they need to get behind the wheel.

“We need to create a safety ecosystem with regulators, government agencies, banks, and technology providers to that ecosystem.  With the right business model, then it becomes self-sustaining” concluded Chen. 

• A recording of the event animated by IRF director general, Susanna Zammataro is available on the IRF website

This article was first published in World Highways

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