Winner of the Queensland Trucking Association's 2023 Road Freight Industry Safety Award1, Russell Transport used risk analysis, buy-in across their own organisation and their customers', and canny understanding of human behaviour to devise a safety program that proved highly effective in everyday practice.

Risk management is a key area of focus for Gallagher brokers when working with businesses and this is a great example of how process adjustments enabled this transport/ trucking company to mitigate a common industry risk. Julie Russell, Director — Support Services, Russell Transport, explains the process behind CallB4 U Climb, a protocol designed to prevent falls from the backs of trucks.

A third generation family business which celebrates 100 years in 2025, Russell Transport operates out of four depots and in customer yards in South East Queensland and Adelaide, with a fleet of over 400 trucks and trailers, and 250+ employees.

The trigger for developing the CallB4 U Climb program came from an incident involving an employee, Julie says.

"We really looked at the need for a driver to climb up onto the back of a truck and what safety measures we could implement."

Taking an analytical approach to freight loading risks

By applying a risk analysis approach to the incident, the safety committee identified two approaches to tackling the issue: frequency and impact. Ideally a solution would address both aspects.

The safety committee consulted injured worker's peers, with a view to understanding how the risk of falling could be reduced. For many in the industry, climbing up on the back of a truck was viewed as being normal and because it is viewed a common practice, the activity is undertaken without conscious awareness, Julie notes.

From observation the committee noticed that when climbing onto the back of a truck drivers often forgot things, going up and down a number of times and increasing the frequency of the risk of falling.

"The committee had to decide how we would raise awareness to make drivers actively think about the task before climbing onto the back of a truck," Julie says. "We wanted to reduce access to one action and get them to think about it before they undertake it."

The improved process included:

  • identifying loads that could be pre-slung at the loading stage
  • placement of connection points closer to side
  • improved communication with loading and unloading sites and contracts with other businesses regarding risks and alternative workarounds

Why creating conscious stop points/roadblocks in process enables greater safety

The solution, she says, was to create 'stop points' that engaged people at these critical junctions in the delivery process. "We wanted managers and supervisors to be involved, as well as the drivers, so that all had accountability and involvement."

They created a guide for employees to use at each point in a delivery that required access to height. The protocol provided an active engagement process for the driver to consciously consider and approach the task.

The driver was required to contact their direct supervisor to discuss the task at hand involving a climb. Both parties then agreed to a plan covering whether the action was necessary or if an alternative action could be adopted: requesting mechanical support from the loaders, for example.

Where a climb was necessary the supervisor and driver discussed how it would be undertaken and what was needed to support the action.

Customers provided support through the use of alternative tools and plant in the unloading process and enabling improved driver visibility of load management to help reduce the number of times they might need to get up on the back of the truck. They quickly realised the benefits of faster and more efficient loading, with drivers participating in analysing safer ways to approach the job.

The new approach was actively run for a month across the whole business and information collated to help identify drivers' reasons for climbing actions, including:

  • the loading and unloading locations involved
  • what controls were in place
  • potential workarounds for use in the future

"It helped us look at what alternative ways could we do this with their help and input," Julie says.

Russell Transport continues to run the CallB4 U Climb campaign for new hires for their first month in the business, and will also run target campaigns across the company regularly throughout the year.

"The ultimate measure is we don't have people falling off the back of trucks," Julie says. "Most people naturally look for the shortest and most direct way to do things, and to make a behavioural change we made that route a little more difficult to perform — so the safer route becomes simpler."

The role of insurance in risk management

To manage business risks Russell Transport relies on Gallagher for its insurance requirements, a relationship fit that has stood the test of time. "I remain with Gallagher because they maintain a customer-focused approach, with family values that align with those of a family-run company," Julie says.

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