An inspiring story came to our ears: UNHCR Thessaloniki, Greece has driven 100.000 kilometres without a single crash. An experience worth sharing so we reached out to the driving force behind this remarkable success. May we introduce you to Charalampos Lolas – Babis for his colleagues-, the Field Safety Associate in field office Thessaloniki.

Babis, can you tell us what the office has done to achieve this result? 

“We actively engage with our staff and we remind our drivers often that the cars with UNHCR insignia are the most visible and recognizable asset of UNHCR and that they are transporting the most valuable resource of the organization: our colleagues. And we ask the passengers for feedback so that we can discuss issues with the drivers and improve our safety performance on a daily basis. We also participate in the preparation of the vehicles and teams for their departure to the field and have monitoring procedures in place to check on compliance of safety rules such as speeding and wearing of seatbelts.”

What else has contributed to this success?

“Our informal weekly meetings with drivers. We take the time to listen to challenges that they face on the roads or their personal problems. Apart from that we have biweekly meetings with our Admin colleagues and Senior Management. In these meetings we discuss the fleet data and issues from staff and try to identify root causes so that lessons can be learned and crashes can be prevented.”

It seems that communication and active engagement with staff are two of the key ingredients for your Safe Road Use recipe?

“Yes they are! We strongly believe that this is crucial for road safety. Another great contributor is repetition of the Vision Zero message. We do that by sending out monthly road safety messages to staff and even more frequently when we know that there is an increased crash risk; for example around national holidays or major events. What also helps is to make road safety visible; in our office you would therefore find the posters that we found on the Safe Road Use website and we have the Be Road Safe stickers in all our vehicles.”

What kind of challenges did you encounter and how did the team overcome this?

“It was a challenge to make everybody in the office more road safety conscious. Road safety is not only a responsibility for drivers but everyone can contribute. Our Senior Management and Admin team have been really valuable to promote this vision about shared responsibility. Another challenge was to change road safety behavior into habits; we do this be continuously repeating the messages and paying compliments when we see good behavior. Let me use this opportunity to stress that this success is the result of a team effort of the entire FSA Team, consisting of Field Safety Advisor Ewald Keller and Vasileios Kousoutis as well as all drivers and our Admin Team.

 You and your colleagues make a lot of efforts to achieve zero crashes. Does it pay-off?

“Definitely. Our drivers are very responsible because they feel that they are trusted and respected by everybody in the office. As they are actively contributing to safety on the roads it reduces the stress levels that comes with operating in an emergency. We also see that our fuel consumption has reduced and is now at an optimal level, which is not only good for our budget but also has a positive impact on the environment. And last but not least: we always get the newest vehicles from the rental company that we use in our operation as they have full confidence in the capability of our drivers.”

Thanks Babis for sharing all these good practices and from our side, we want to congratulate the Thessaloniki team with this great achievement and look forward to hear from you again!

Photo:  ©Charalampos Lolas