IRU member Alsa is continuing to set high safety standards as it begins rolling-out Roadmasters. What is the company’s safety vision, how is it delivering and what lies ahead?
Leading bus and coach operator Alsa is rolling out the IRU RoadMasters solution across its entire network, beginning with Morocco. The move is part of Alsa’s ongoing efforts in attaining the highest international safety standards.
Alsa transports passengers by bus and coach in Spain, Morocco, Switzerland and Portugal with more than 5,500 vehicles and 14,800 employees. The company transported more than 423 million travellers last year.
Covering all mobility needs of its clients is a key Alsa goal. It has therefore become a multimodal operator offering customers a wide range of transport services from urban, regional, national and international routes, to tourist and "last mile" solutions.
It starts with a vision
Mobility is a fundamental right, with a direct influence on people's quality of life, personal and social development. In addition, it is central to economic integration efforts for all regions in a country. Transport systems must support this right in an efficient, safe and environmentally friendly manner.
Road safety is the highest priority in Alsa’s operations, with a zero tolerance policy for any behaviour that puts it at risk. To this end, the company already launched in 2010 the “Driving Out Harm” programme, aiming to reach the highest level of security in the industry.
Combining human excellence and technology
The key to the success of Alsa’s initiatives on road safety has been the involvement of the entire management team throughout the organisation. Together, they drive both the human and the technical aspects of Alsa’s safety strategy, focusing on five key areas.
Firstly, the selection and continuous training of its drivers anchors the strategy. The objective of the company’s “Master Driver” program is to have highly trained professional drivers who perform to the highest standards. This includes evaluating, training, communicating with, recognising and rewarding drivers according to their competence and performance profile.
Secondly, the continuous performance monitoring of drivers is supported by various technologies on board the company’s buses and coaches. Alsa has continuously invested in its fleet to incorporate the latest technological innovations in terms of active and passive safety and accident prevention, allowing the firm to take preventative action before accidents occur.
These innovations include emergency braking systems (ABA), fatigue detection devices, intelligent cameras and systems that monitor speed and driving style, camera mirrors, pedestrian detection systems, lane assistant and tyre pressure control amongst others.
Thirdly, drivers themselves receive feedback constantly via a tailored app developed by the company. The MiAlsa app allows drivers to consult information on their individual performance at any time, including fuel consumption, driving style, overtaking, and safety incidents.
Fourthly, Alsa recognises and rewards its best drivers. Drivers can become a "Master Driver", if they demonstrate outstanding skills and an excellent record. Additionally, drivers demonstrating higher professional and safety standards are eligible to receive the IRU RoadMasters certificate.
Finally, Alsa promotes the health and well-being of drivers and indeed all employees by implementing active policies to encourage healthy habits that also prevent illness.
A positive impact on road safety
Alsa’s principle finding after years of efforts is that security is manageable. Most accidents are preventable and, therefore, can be avoided by carrying out appropriate preventive measures.
Since 2010, the company has reduced accidents by 36%, with a 66% reduction in terms of their severity. This shows that the objective of zero victims on our roads is ultimately achievable. The firm has concluded that bus and coach transport has a similar accident rate to that of aviation or rail, and is 20 times safer than travelling by private vehicle.
Alsa has also conducted surveys on the perception of their road safety efforts and investments by stakeholders such as customers, employees, public administrations, suppliers and society in general.
As a visible and leading company in the sector, Alsa is determined to continue reducing accident rates year on year into the future.
A promising future, but a challenging one
Undoubtedly, one of the main challenges the company and wider sector faces is driver shortage. This chronic issue has pushed Alsa to reinforce efforts in the selection and development of new professional drivers.
Additionally, mobility has become increasingly complex in cities in recent years and this impacts accident rates. In Spain for example, 60% of accidents causing injury or death occur in urban areas.
Public transport services by bus and coach must coexist with personal mobility vehicles, such as bicycles and scooters, as well as other road users such as private cars and pedestrians. Ongoing measures need to be taken by authorities and operators to ensure safe coexistence between different types of mobility in urban areas.
Finally, transport companies still need legal changes in many jurisdictions to be able to boost safety even further by implementing regular compulsory medical examinations and preventive drug and alcohol controls for professional drivers, and having security and safety efforts recognised in public tenders for transport service contracts.
Road safety is a shared responsibility between public administrations, regulators, transport operators and other road users. It requires all actors to align their efforts. Both authorities and operators, in their respective spheres of responsibility, must adapt infrastructure, rolling stock and other measures to not only make transport user-friendly, flexible and affordable, but above all, safe and secure.