TT Talk - Traffic management saves lives

A critical transfer point of intermodal trade is the marine container terminal; immense strain encountered globally through 2021 is set to continue through 2022. Efficiently facilitating the flow of empty and laden containers to and from ships, trucks and trains is no mean feat ordinarily – and current disruptive dynamics have resulted in substantial congestion and operational stresses.

The natural flow of containers through many of today’s container terminals sees multiple vehicles and cranes moving within a restricted operational space. While automation and deployment of machine learning technologies can serve to ensure that collisions are minimised, the potential for incidents cannot be underestimated. The interface between personnel and heavy industrial machinery always needs to be carefully considered and managed – safety is the critical priority and everyone operating in these environments need to be protected.

The interface between personnel and heavy industrial machinery always needs to be carefully considered and managed

TT Club claims data 2018-2020 suggest that mobile equipment (trucks, cranes, lift trucks, handling equipment) are involved in incidents accounting for around 75% of the costs of bodily injury claims. Causal analysis of the incidents have identified that most are caused by human error. Continuously focusing loss prevention activities on four specific topics related to traffic management procedures substantially mitigates these risks. 

1. One-way traffic flows

Implementing a one-way traffic flow has been shown to reduce collisions dramatically. It may be a common perception that this will result in reduced productivity, but experience of those facilities that have implemented one-way traffic flows shows that not only does the frequency of incidents reduce but productivity increases. 

Local space and operational restrictions might not allow implementation of one-way traffic flows in every location, however consideration to implementing a one way traffic flow should be given wherever practicable. Such operational principles become ever more important with the advent of automation and where careful control of vehicle movements is critical to maintain safety, reduce congestion and collisions, including at intersections.

2. Restricting vehicles & pedestrians in the terminal yard

Restricting the number of vehicles and pedestrians allowed into the operational area of the terminal yard reduces the number of incidents. Private vehicles should kept fully segregated from the operational area of the terminal. Furthermore, only company vehicles that have high visibility strips or colour and/or flashing lights should be used to move people and equipment around the facility. 
Procedures should be adopted to limit the need for staff or others to be in the yard and adequately define protections when their access is necessary. In general, pedestrians should not be allowed within the operational area of the terminal at any time. Equally, ships’ crew must not be allowed to walk through the terminal; ideally, a vehicle should be provided for personnel access to and from the ship or at least a defined, segregated and well-lit access way. 

Procedures should be adopted to limit the need for staff or others to be in the yard and adequately define protections when their access is necessary

Terminal staff should travel to any necessary site locations in company vehicles. In relation to security, technology (such as CCTV) should be deployed, with monitoring security personnel located in a control room; foot patrols should be discarded.

Where container terminals employ automated handling equipment, additional consideration to manage the risks through movement of all kinds within operational zones is required.

3. Site induction procedures for external truck drivers & visitors

The majority of serious injuries within container terminals occur to external truck drivers. Often this occurs because they do not know or follow procedures. It is critical to implement a procedure to provide site induction to anybody entering the facility. Such an induction should cover emergency plans, accessible areas and, importantly, identify prohibited areas. 

A sign at the entrance of the facility is considered ineffective communication. While face-to-face training for all external truckers, similar to the training given to terminal staff, may be preferred (since it affords the opportunity for questions to be addressed), online or app tools are increasingly available to support validated learning. A truck driver can then be issued with photographic or biometric identification confirming induction and controlling access. 

Such induction records and access controls can easily be databased to ensure periodic refresher training or manage the process following any significant infrastructure change. Linking these records to security protocols provides added benefits.

4. Implement safe practices for activities involving truck drivers

As mentioned, the majority of serious injuries on a terminal involve external truck drivers. Truck drivers should not alight from their vehicle anywhere within the terminal stacking yard where cranes, straddle carriers or lift trucks are operating. 

The only time a trucker should alight from the vehicle is to lock and unlock twistlocks. This procedure must not be performed in the stacking yard; each facility should provide a safe, convenient area, for example adjacent to the main gate, where only external trucks are allowed to stop briefly to carry out this task. Clarity on this operation will mitigate the risk of any short cuts being taken by truck drivers.


Further, clear and safe procedures should be adopted to keep the trucker safe whilst a container is being removed from or loaded onto the trailer/chassis. Generally, the trucker should remain in their vehicle. An exception to this is straddle carrier operations, where the truck driver should alight from their vehicle and stand in a designated safe area while the straddle carrier is loading or removing the container. This may also apply in automated yards, depending on precise layout. A thorough risk assessment should be undertaken, providing a designated safe area as appropriate, supported by clear protocols for all aspects of this operation. 

Supporting all these steps, deploying signage, lane markings, control signals and effective lighting, where possible aligned to those used on public roads, can assist all port users and engender greater safety.

Finally, all procedures once adopted need to be enforced. If it can be shown that procedures are consistently not followed and little action taken to enforce them, container terminal operators are likely to be unable to sustain a contributory negligence argument in any litigation following an injury, as well as to be exposed to fines from Health and Safety authorities.

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We hope that you have found the above interesting. If you would like further information, or have any comments, please email us, or take this opportunity to forward to any colleagues who you may feel would be interested.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Peregrine Storrs-Fox

Risk Management Director, TT Club

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    28/12/2021

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Mike Yarwood

TT Club

Date07/12/2021