Construction Equipment GLOBAL

Safe and sober

A trial to breathalyse visitors to Volvo Construction Equipment’s Customer Center in Sweden before they can operate machines has proven so popular – even among those tested – that the safety measure is set to be rolled out globally.

The machine’s demonstrate their skills

There are certain safety rules that can never be broken when operating heavy machinery – always wear a seat belt, drive carefully, pay attention to your surroundings and, importantly, drive sober. Safety is a core value at Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE), and to reinforce its dedication to safe machine operation it has implemented a breathalyzer test at its Customer Center in Eskilstuna, Sweden, for all visitors hoping to test drive equipment.

The Customer Center is home to a number of events – including the famous Volvo Days – that are dedicated to giving customers, journalists and dealers a chance to get up close and personal with Volvo CE and its machines. These events provide an occasion for attendees to come together and enjoy themselves while learning about the full Volvo offering. There is also a chance to test drive the equipment, and the breathalyzer scheme was introduced to guarantee utmost safety when handling the machines.

The initiative began as a trial at the Customer Center and, thanks to Volvo CE’s commitment to the safety of its customers, it is now set to become standard policy. Each year over 25,000 people visit the Customer Center (most arriving by bus) – and approximately half of those operate the wide range of Volvo equipment available in the test yard. The new initiative ensures all visitors understand the importance of safely operating the machines, as well as guaranteeing that they are in the best shape to operate the big, heavy and often fast moving equipment.

Enjoy responsibly

“We want everyone who comes to the Customer Center to enjoy themselves,” says Gindahl. “But we also have an obligation to make sure everyone who visits us remains safe. As it is, we have operators with differing levels of skill and experience, and that brings enough challenges as it is – so needing them to be sober is a basic requirement. Thankfully we have never had an alcohol-related incident – or accident of any kind, in fact – but only preventative measures will ensure it stays that way.”

The solution is, of course, not to let people operate machines unless they are sober enough to safely do so. A breathalyzer test for everyone wanting to operate machinery at the Customer Center reinforces Volvo CE’s commitment to the safety of all their visitors.

“To be professional we decided that we had to have a fixed limit,” comments Gindahl. “So we are using the same equipment used by the Swedish police and also the same safe road driving limit as used under Swedish law – 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. Which, incidentally, is one of the lowest in the world. The process is automatic – just blow into one of the disposable plastic tubes and the breathalyzer does the rest.”

Want to drive? Do the test

The scheme initially did random spot checks on people, but at the Volvo Days last year it was decided that everyone who wants to operate equipment first has to undergo the test. There was some concern that visitors might view the move as unnecessary or overbearing, but the reaction has been surprisingly positive – with no fall in the numbers of people wanting to operate the machines.

“If you want to drive the equipment, you have to do the test – it’s as simple as that,” says Gindahl. “We’re not trying to make criminals out of our visitors – it’s just about safety, nothing more. And our guests respect that and aren’t offended to be asked to take the test. I’ve not had a single negative comment about it – nor has anyone refused to take a test.”

The other element that helps the scheme work is that the test comes as no surprise to the visitors. “On the evening they arrive we welcome all our guests and explain that if they want to use the machines the following morning then they will have to be breathalyzed,” says Gindahl.

Having successfully trialed the scheme, breathalyzer tests are now standard policy at the Customer Center in Sweden – and other customer centers around the world, as well as certain sections of Volvo Trucks, are also showing interest in introducing the practice. “It’s not a trial anymore, its policy – and one that is supported by everyone,” concludes Gindahl. “We only have two rules when it comes to testing the machines – you have to be at least 18 years old and you have to be sober. We sometimes bend the rules for technical apprentices younger than 18 – but we never make exceptions on being sober.”

Picture : The machine’s demonstrate their skills.


Tiffany Cheng

Director, External Communications
Volvo Construction Equipment

Brian O'Sullivan

Tel: +44 7733350307