How safety programs can help transit meet budget challenges

Posted on January 10, 2014 by Jason Palmer - Also by this author

Transit agencies today face a complex set of issues: budgets are shrinking while demand for public transportation and ridership are increasing at a record pace.

Agencies striving to meet service demands and overcome budgetary pressures are continuing to make safety of operators and riders a priority, however, it’s not always something that can be given a huge investment. What we’ve seen, though, is that investing in safety can actually work to the benefit of agencies in terms of efficiency increases and cost reductions.

A prime example of this is with Veolia Transportation, a private sector operator of multiple modes of transit in North America. The company saw a relatively small investment in safety systems turn into big cost savings — specifically, a $5 million drop in annual claims cost.

A driving event captured by SmartDrive has been scored and prioritized.
A driving event captured by SmartDrive has been scored and prioritized.
Back in May 2011, Veolia started implementing SmartDrive’s on-board video and safety program on vehicles across the U.S. Veolia has always been an organization focused on safety. Their major safety initiative, 300:29:1, identifies and eliminates the unsafe acts that can accumulate and lead to an accident. The rationale: for every 300 unsafe acts, 29 potential collisions and one catastrophic loss will occur. They’ve coined the phrase “Prevent the 300” to keep the priority in mind.

As part of its goal to “Prevent the 300,” Veolia has long supported the use of on-board video on its vehicles. After using another system that wasn’t meeting its needs, Veolia switched to SmartDrive Safety, which combines video with a critical analysis component. The video provides a consistent and objective view of the operator, vehicle and environment, and then, SmartDrive Safety experts analyze, score and prioritize the data before sending it to Veolia. These experts identify unsafe driving maneuvers, highlight good driving skills and document rider issues — giving safety managers actionable and prioritized tools to coach operators on their individual performance.

Since starting the program, Veolia has seen some amazing increases in safety including:
•    Decrease in following at an unsafe distance by 79%.
•    Drop in speeding by 88%.
•    Reduction in collision frequency by 52%.
•    94% of unfastened seat belts now being fastened.

Importantly, Veolia made their investment back — and then some — with the $5 million drop in annual claims cost.
In the end, safety programs can be a key component in helping transit agencies overcome today’s operational and budgetary pressures by increasing efficiency, saving lives and reducing costs.

To read the entire case study on how Veolia is “preventing the 300” and saving money with SmartDrive, visit

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "San Antonio transit agency turns to advanced vehicles to protect air quality."

Palmer is the president of SmartDrive Systems, a leader in providing comprehensive, video-based operator performance and safety programs to help transit agencies achieve operational safety and efficiency, protect operators and the public, and lower costs overall.

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