Health & Safety

Road Traffic Safety (RTS) Management Systems

These days, a lot of people drive for work (some are even driven by work).  Some people always have done – like delivery drivers, sales representatives, repairmen, community nurses, traffic police and enforcement officers.  But even if you aren’t one of these people, you probably do a little bit of driving – the odd client visit, usually in your own car (because it’s convenient) but sometimes a fleet vehicle or hire car.

Because there’s such a lot of it, companies have sometimes tried to manage it.  You may not know, but someone else has tried to manage it too – or rather to manage the management of it.  In 2012, a standard on the topic was published – ISO 39001: Road Traffic Safety Management Systems.  Like all safety management systems – it’s just a tool to help you manage a specific area. Whilst this safety management system is compatible with all the other safety management systems out there, the focus on road traffic safety is justified based on the relatively large number of accidents and near misses out there on the roads.

ISO 39001 tries to tell you what elements of good practice in this area look like. But the idea is that instead of a whole load of random, reactive actions to control road traffic risk, you have a holistic, systematic approach, with tailored performance indicators (to focus your mind).  Think of it like ‘well-being’ or ‘mindfulness’ for road traffic risk.

Traffic on M25, UK

So what does it have to say?

As with many of these standards these days, ISO are keen to point out that you need to understand the “context of your organisation”. In practice, this means looking at where you are now and understanding where you need to be.  So, you look at the issues relevant to you, what you have under control and what you want to get out of it. And what you can afford to do.  These questions then affect the scope of your system.

The standard then outlines a number of elements that you should have in place.  Not surprisingly – first up is having a policy. It’s supposed to be an indicator that top management are committed to the whole venture.  Coupled with this is assigning, to a specific individual, the job of implementing it all into a management system.

Implementing an RTSMS is then a series a of steps:

  • Review your current performance – this helps you focus on significant issues to address in your risk assessment (this is formally next, but actually the risk assessment process helps you review where you are anyway, because it’s natural to note down what you already have in place and whether it’s OK or you need more).
  • Assess your RTS risks (and opportunities) – risk assessment by another name.
  • Select ‘RTS performance factors’ to work on improving first. It’s a strange phrase, but these are just elements of road traffic safety that are considered important to get right – like driver fitness and using seat belts, for example.  The standard contains a suggested list of these, but you need to select the ones to work on that are relevant to your organisation and the risks you already identified).  This list is also handy to keep in mind as a checklist for your risk assessment (previous step).
  • Then plan to fix them (objectives, targets, detailed plans) – this is the action plan to implement control measures.

In common with all other management systems of this type, the standard then goes on to describe monitoring, audit, management review and continual improvement.


Dr David Towlson