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Tips to ensure against truck accidents

According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), South Africa has one of the highest accident and death rates in the world, with over 31 people dying on the country’s roads every day. With the upcoming holiday season and the subsequent increase in traffic, this number will no doubt increase.

For most people, the holiday season means profuse shopping and as a result retailers work around the clock to ensure that their shelves are well stocked. However, this has a trickling effect for truck drivers; they have to work tirelessly to make sure that deliveries are made on time. This may lead to fatigued drivers being on the road longer than the prescribed hours.

Now, we know the danger associated with driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. However, few people realise the bigger danger of driving while fatigued. The 2017 RTMC report shows that human factors were the biggest contributor to road crashes and fatalities, accounting for 91%, with driver fatigue listed as one of the leading causes. 

Effective risk management can keep truck drivers safer on the road

The losses suffered as a result of a truck accident could be devastating for a business. Although a truck is likely to be insured, the cover under that policy may not be sufficient for third party liability arising from injuries or death. In addition to the cost of repairing or replacing a truck, the company could lose revenue while the vehicle is unable to make deliveries and/or even lose clients for failure to meet contractual obligations. Cargo could be damaged, causing issues for clients, and an accident could possibly affect a company’s loss ratio and insurance premium.

Herewith a list of tips fleet owners/operator can implement to help keep their drivers safer on the roads:

  1. Truck roadworthiness

  • Roadworthiness of trucks is an important requirement by law and for the safety of both the driver and other road users. Trucks must undergo a roadworthy test annually and owners will not be able to renew their licences without presenting a valid roadworthy certificate.
  • It is also one of the main pre-requisites for heavy haulage insurance policies. These policies are issued to the insured with a specific condition that the vehicle is kept in a roadworthy condition at all times in terms of the National Road Traffic Act. An insurer can reject a claim if it is proven that the vehicle was not roadworthy.
  1. Valid driver’s licence and Professional Driving Permit (PrDP)

  • By law, a valid driver’s licence is required before a person may drive a motor vehicle. In South Africa, to transport goods or passengers for an income, one must have a PrDP.
  • The permit is issued in addition to an ordinary driving licence. A PrDP applies to motor vehicles with a gross vehicle mass exceeding 3 500kg. As the operator or owner of a heavy haulage vehicle for which a PrDP is required, you may not let another person drive the vehicle on a public road unless they have a valid PrDP, for the appropriate category.
  1. Take care of drivers

The most important part of a moving truck is the driver.

  • Drivers should get plenty of rest before getting behind the wheel. A minimum of six hours of sleep is recommended before a long drive.
  • Hours of service. Advise fleet operators that they may not require or permit an employee to work more than 90 hours in any week, inclusive of ordinary hours of work, overtime and hours worked on a Sunday or public holiday.
  • Nutritious food is an important part in helping a driver remain fit and alert behind the wheel.
  • Regular health and fitness checks. These may include but are not limited to eye, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol tests. These can be preventative or help to manage already existing conditions.
  1. Adhere to the minimum working hours

  • The law has maximum work and minimum rest limits for truck drivers. This ensures that drivers rest sufficiently during trips.
  • Drivers are not permitted to work more than 90 hours in any week, inclusive of ordinary hours of work, overtime and hours worked on a Sunday or public holiday.
  1. Encourage drivers to use work diaries and keep records of their trips

  • Fleet owners need to create a requirement for drivers to record their hours of work and rest in a national work diary, and provide copies to their record keeper.
  1. Encourage rest periods

  • Encourage drivers not to drive for more than eight to ten hours a day, without a break.
  • There are several safe and comfortable Truck Stops located near busy roads, with large parking areas for trucks.
  • The Truck Stops offer a range of services for professional truck drivers to rest and refresh themselves from eating facilities, accommodation and other available services.
  1. Manage expectations with dispatchers

  • The process of managing expectations involves drivers, dispatchers and other operators in the value chain.
  • A driver who is told to return to a fleet yard “as soon as possible” after delivering a load may assume he is being told to make the trip at all costs – even if that means bending hours of service rules or driving when fatigued.
  1. Use of technology (telematics/vehicle monitoring/dashboard cameras)

  • Fleets can be installed with telematics to identify drivers that systematically and deliberately speed, overload and exceed fatigue limits.
  • The system offers an early warning sign for someone fighting fatigue, in order to minimise accidents.

Operators or fleet owners can contribute towards improving the safety on South Africa’s roads by initiating driver wellness initiatives in the workplace and making sure that their drivers take part. Just as it is of utmost importance to keep trucks roadworthy and track the validity of a driver’s Professional Driving Permit in this industry, driver wellness should also be a priority.

For the safety of all road users, let’s deliver cargo safely and responsibly

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