Key challenges in tram/streetcar driving from the tram driver’s perspective – A qualitative study

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - australasia, place - urban, mode - tram/light rail, ridership - drivers, planning - safety/accidents, planning - service improvement, planning - education


Trams, Streetcars, Public transportation, Road safety, Tram drivers, Focus groups


Tram drivers have a difficult task in controlling one of the heaviest vehicles on the road whilst negotiating a complex road environment with multiple road users. Like all public transport drivers, tram drivers need to ensure passenger safety and to run on time. However, very little research has been conducted evaluating tram driving tasks and even less on evaluating tram drivers opinion on how other road users are affecting tram road safety. Therefore, the aim of this study is to investigate the key tram driving challenges, to identify the key road user factors affecting tram road safety as well as to explore the potential safety improvement initiatives on tram routes from the tram drivers’ viewpoint. The study incorporated five focus groups involving thirty tram drivers in Melbourne. The key themes emerged inductively from focus groups were identified through a data coding process. Outcomes of the focus groups revealed seven major challenges in tram driving: ensuring safety for all people in and around the tram, pressure for running on-time, maintaining constant concentration on roads, predicting other road users’ behavior in advance to avoid any crash incident, preventing passenger falls on board, accepting the operational constraints of trams and managing fatigue workloads. Tram drivers identified that other road users are unaware of safety issues around trams, have a poor understanding of road rules about driving with trams and often violate road rules around trams, and they mentioned this road user behaviors as the key challenges for safe tram driving. Tram drivers proposed rendering greater law enforcement on the tram network to penalize road users who are violating road rules around trams, introducing more safety campaigns and safety education to increase awareness among road users to improve tram road safety. Findings of this research enhance understanding of tram driving challenges, provide an in-depth knowledge of road user factors affecting tram road safety and suggest effective planning strategies for transit agencies to improve road safety.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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