It is essential for any company running logistics operations to have sound safety protocols, but how many can say they do? Well, in South Africa, only 35% of road transportation companies manage their fleet to the international standard for road traffic safety. This figure highlights the lack of attention most companies place on road safety, which threatens the bottom line of any vehicle-driven business.
South Africa’s truck drivers are especially at risk as they spend the most behind the wheel compared to any other driver in the transportation industry. They endure gruelling hours navigating the world’s 10th largest road network, making it crucial for their employers to invest in their safety.
This article will look into road risks and truck driver habits and explore the different tips companies can be aware of to improve road safety through driver behaviour.
Are you looking for more hands-on assistance with truck drivers and fleet management? If so, the MASA Drivers Division is here to help. We are the go-to driving specialists for blue-chip companies in South Africa and beyond, offering a reliable supply of industry-leading drivers for your needs. Contact us today to learn more about our services.
A Look into Fleet Management
Fleet management encompasses all aspects of a company’s fleet vehicles, which can be defined as groups of vehicles owned or leased by a business, government or an organisation.
To give you an idea, fleet management can involve a variety of activities, including:
- Vehicle financing
- Vehicle upkeep
- Vehicle telematics (vehicle tracking and diagnostics)
- Driver management
- Speed management
- Fuel management
- Health and safety management
With such a wide range of vital activities involved, fleet management must be essential for companies using vehicles in their operations. However, a study by Mobilitas and Standard Bank Fleet Management revealed otherwise: Only 3% of the companies involved actually focused more than 50% of their time on the fleet management side of their business.
This statistic exposes how most companies operate blind or with a basic strategy behind their transportation and vehicle logistics. One can only imagine the impact this has on the safety of truck drivers, fleet vehicles and the cargo they are hired to carry.
Road Risk and Driver Safety
With a high rate of illness and injury among drivers, long-distance truck driving must be one of the riskiest vocations in the world. There are 4.9 million licensed heavy-duty drivers in South Africa, and 418 000 heavy-duty vehicles were on our roads in 2016, according to the Electronic National Administration Traffic Information System (eNaTIS).
Several factors put truck drivers in danger (and make them a risk to others), like the number of hours they spend on the road, fatigue, potholes, and the threat of crime or being hijacked. However, when examining the many risks drivers face, one crucial point stands out: driver behaviour.
The way truck drivers have been trained to behave, and the habits they have picked up along the way are more serious factors than most companies realise. Once a truck driver hits the road, their employer has entrusted them with the safety of the vehicle and its cargo.
Because they spend so much time each day on the road, negative habits develop, and they start to take the National Road Traffic Act for granted. This can result in them neglecting basic safety procedures, handling the vehicle carelessly and increasing the risk of accidents.
An inappropriate attitude toward driving
Many drivers regard their next trip as just another trip rather than seeing it as a work activity that, if completed safely and effectively, would help them to continue in the system for that much longer. Attitude is a significant area that drivers can improve by:
- Understanding that the use of the road is built on mutual respect (We have to respect all other road users and them, us).
- Leaving problems/arguments with others outside the truck.
- Focusing on the task at hand while blocking out distractions
- Doing pre-trip inspections and load management.
Failure to Remain Alert and Vigilant
Drivers don’t seem to understand the reality of fatigue and the impact fatigue can have on their lives over their next few hours on the road. Fatigue for many, mostly long-distance drivers, is a lethal challenge.
Non-Defensive Driving Habits
Poor defensive driving skills are apparent on every road, so truck drivers should be much more aware because of their exposure and the sheer size of increased risk.
- Lazy driving styles negatively impact response times in the event of emergencies and also invite complacency into the truck cab.
- Speeding: Some drivers are paid a small basic salary and a load or km bonus. So, they tend to speed and not rest as often as they should.
- Failure to plan ahead.
- Poor observation.
- Failing to recognise the blind spots that exist around the truck.
- Poor use of onboard communication systems (indicators, hazards, flashlights, hooter etc.).
- Too many attempts to move off (sometimes takes 5 or 6 attempts before correct execution), thus placing a significant strain on maintenance issues.
- Ignoring changes in the road surface.
- Disregarding traffic laws and ignoring road signs and markings.
- Failing to notice/react to hazards.
- Aggression: This is usually maximised by personal and work-related stress. Tight schedules and no off-time to spend with their families.
Other bad habits that drivers may be engaging in include:
- Positioning behind the steering wheel/Incorrect hand position on the steering wheel.
- Resting their hands on the gear lever.
- Re-setting on-board display messages while moving off.
- Pinching the steering wheel between their legs to set their hands free.
- Driving while crossing arms.
Ultimately, it is up to employers and managers to ensure they implement robust driver safety protocols focused on education and training. Companies should equip drivers with the tools and resources to drive safely on the road and complete their loads efficiently.
Companies can increase their overall driver safety by investing in fleet management strategies and holding drivers to a higher standard. Some of the suggestions from driver trainers include:
- Defensive driver training should be a prerequisite before receiving a Code EC or C1 licence.
- Drivers should pass the existing K53, drive a Code B for a minimum of 3 years crash-free, and be forced to undergo Defensive driver training before issuing their heavy-duty driver’s licence.
- Constant driver training, use of various monitoring systems and acting on non-conformances shown.
- Constant driver feedback on how they can improve (corrective action training) driver incentives allow drivers to feel important and show them how their behaviour affects the organisation.
- Using seasoned well-trained drivers as trainers to detect and identify weaknesses.
- Providing on-route coaching while transferring knowledge and experience.
- Effective competency testing.
- Provide embedded knowledge training – improves understanding of the truck.
- Provide effective Defensive Driver Training – improves understanding of the road.
- There is no substitute for adequate, ongoing, professional driver training from a reputable and certified service provider
- Training should be recognised not as an expense but as an investment.
Take the wheel with both hands
Given the above, it is clear that fleet management can significantly contribute to improving driver safety. Fleet Management strategies focused on safety can help improve driver behaviour and the overall success of your company’s fleet management.
If you need assistance with your fleet management and truck drivers, the MASA Specialist Drivers Division is here to help. We are Africa’s foremost supplier of drivers across the spectrum. From a forklift to Code 14, we have a vast pool of experienced drivers ready to be mobilised at your call.
Get in touch with us today to take your driving logistics to the next level!