Ashok Kulkarni remembers every one of them — the truck drivers who lost their lives delivering products on Malaysia’s roads during his watch as operations manager there.
Malaysia’s traffic fatality rate is one of the world’s highest. “We were losing several people a year,” recalled Ashok, who is now responsible for road safety throughout the region. “These were people I knew! I would go to a safety meeting, and someone I had met at the last meeting would be missing.”
Their loss was nothing compared to the anguish of the drivers’ families. “You never forget that,” he said.
Only one good thing has come of it: a safety programme that has virtually ended Shell’s road fatalities in Malaysia, where a fleet of about 300 drivers haul company products over 50 million kilometres each year. The programme has been so effective that the Malaysian government has partnered with Shell to help other companies improve safety.
Fiercely motivated by each death, Ashok and the road safety team were determined to help contractors adopt Shell’s rigorous safety standards. Some were simple, like coating trucks with reflective paint. Others needed more planning and vigilance, such as reducing unnecessary travel and finding the safest routes.
When Shell’s downstream transport team in Malaysia achieved three years without losing a life, the government was impressed. The Malaysia Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS) tried to persuade other companies to follow Shell’s successful practices. However, many saw nothing in common with a global energy company.