Haulage Company Incident Management – Forth Bridge Incidents
Haulage companies will be aware of two recent incidents on the Forth Road Bridge, when drivers ignored signs showing ‘High winds – bridge closed to high sided vehicles,’ and caused chaos across Scotland’s central belt.
Estimated reading time 4 minutes.
When you heard about these incidents, did you imagine the damage to your company’s reputation if something like this happened to one of your fleet? In this blog I will give you some pointers on how you can prepare to respond appropriately.
In the first incident this year on 11th January, a Currie European lorry driver ignored the signs and overturned on the Forth Road Bridge, leading to its closure for about 19 hours. The second incident this year was on the 14th March and like the first, it caused chaos not only at the bridge but all over Scotland’s central belt, as traffic was forced to divert.
You can imagine the strength of feeling that flooded social media. The twitter feed for the second incident that occurred on the 14th March will give you a flavour:
In both these incidents the haulage companies failed to respond in any way to the social media storm that was unleashed.
In the case of Currie European, photos of the upturned vehicle with the company name all over the news can’t have been very good advertising and are still available on the internet now for anyone to see.
So, what is a transport firm to do about this? How can you manage your reputation when an accident caused by one of your vehicle leads to widespread disruption and a social media shit-storm slagging off your company?
Well, HGV driver training and a robust company policy are good places to start but not every incident is the result of poor decision making on the part of the driver. Sometimes accidents happen!
What was clearly lacking from both incidents is any kind of Crisis Management Plan. Thousands of tweets mentioned Currie European on the 11th and 12th of January. How many tweets did Currie European put out in response?
This is their twitter account, as of today (15th March 2017) and there are exactly ZERO tweets, ever.
It’s obvious then, that they missed an opportunity to protect and even enhance their reputation. The public gets upset when accidents happen that spoil their day but if the company responsible at least apologises and assures everyone they have a plan and are going to put things right as soon as possible, it can enhance their reputation as a company that cares.
So, what do you, the owner or director of your haulage company, do?
You need to have an action plan in case of a crisis. I am told that in one incident the company MD was not informed of the incident until he came to the office several hours after it happened. While this anecdote may just be hearsay, what is obvious is that the company had no plan for how they ought to respond.
A quick list of actions you should consider when devising your plan would be:
Decide in advance what your social media response will be.
Have pre-agreed tweets, press releases, and Facebook messages ready to be sent out by duty operational staff immediately. If you wait, it will be too late and the damage may be irreparable.
Have a mechanism for informing senior managers so they can respond.
Be prepared for the MD or other senior director to face the media.
Ensure that an operational team is trained and ready to respond to the actual incident.
Make sure the plan is understood by everyone, and is tested and trusted.
Make sure everyone is trained to carry out their role.
So, what are the benefits of doing all of the above? You will protect and probably enhance your reputation. Past incidents demonstrate that any company who responds positively, no matter how grave the situation, comes out on top.
The senior person who fronts the media gives the company a human face. People react positively to being treated as humans by humans.
When the MD looks straight at the TV camera and says ‘Sorry for the disruption, we are doing all we can to put things right and we will learn from this, ‘public outrage softens and people will come to your defence. People know mistakes and accidents happen, it’s how you deal with them that makes the difference and you can only do that if you come prepared.
When the inquiry comes, as it surely will, you will be able to point to the actions you took to rectify the situation, showing that you are a caring, responsive operator who had done all you could do in preparation for something going wrong. Regulators like that sort of thing. I know, I used to work for one of them.
If you need any help with your planning, please do get in touch.