Here’s how SA fleet operators can promote safer truck driving behaviour in 2023

3 min read 13 March 2023

On 6 March, a truck ploughed into morning traffic and caused an accident involving multiple vehicles on the M41 in Umhlanga, Durban. This recent incident is a reminder that road safety continues to be a huge concern in the transport and logistics space and Santam, as a leading insurer in the Heavy Haulage industry, says it is continuously engaging with all stakeholders to highlight and raise awareness of this pertinent issue.

“The last few years have drawn the public’s attention to the rising number of truck-related incidents and the horrific nature of recent accidents involving trucks that we have seen on the country’s roads has increased the need for urgent interventions from the public and private sectors,” says Anton Cornelissen, head of Santam Heavy Haulage. “There’s a growing need to promote safer driving behaviour to safeguard other motorists travelling on the road, especially on busy roads with an increased presence of trucks.”

In addition to ensuring trucks are in a roadworthy condition, Santam offers drivers and fleet managers the following advice to help drivers overcome most of the challenges they face on the road and to ensure fleet operators promote safer driving behaviour.

Perform regular truck inspections

Santam says truck drivers should inspect their vehicles regularly to ensure they are in good working condition. This inspection includes checking the brakes, tyres, lights, and engine. By doing this, truck drivers can avoid potential accidents and keep themselves and others safe on the roads.

Heavy Haulage Fleets require regular maintenance to keep them running smoothly and efficiently. Depending on the size and scope of the operation, the fleet’s maintenance needs will vary. However, fleet managers must perform general maintenance tasks regularly, such as inspecting and servicing their trucks and trailers, checking and replenishing fluids and lubricants, maintaining tyres at proper inflation levels, and performing regular safety checks.

It is also crucial that fleet operators develop a good relationship with a qualified heavy truck repair shop. This way, they can be sure that their trucks will receive the expert care and attention they need if something is wrong.

Drivers must be well rested

Santam says it is important to remember that, in addition to mechanical issues and failures that cause accidents, truck drivers also work under uniquely physically demanding conditions, putting them at increased risk, which, when coupled with fatigue, can negatively affect their reaction time and significantly increase the risk of road collisions.

For this reason, truck drivers must get plenty of rest and a minimum of six hours of sleep before a long drive. They should not drive continuously for more than five hours without taking breaks of at least 15 minutes.

Use technology to promote safer driving behaviour

Technology, like telematics, vehicle monitoring and dashboard cameras, allows fleet operators to connect their cameras to Lane Departure Warning Systems that will record videos when trucks gradually drift out of a lane.

This technology can identify sudden changes in driver behaviour that could indicate drowsy driving, therefore minimising accidents.

Manage expectations with dispatchers

Santam says fleet operators must effectively manage expectations between drivers, dispatchers, and other operators in the value chain. For example, truck drivers travelling on roads with fewer vehicles may feel the need to drive too fast to meet the demand. By managing expectations, fleet operators can ensure drivers continuously stick to the speed limit at all times and obey all the road rules.

Fleet operators can also help drivers establish detailed trip plans, which creates a better balance between client demands, service hours, regulations, and the need to rest.

Safeguard driver health

Santam says the most crucial part of a moving truck is the driver. For this reason, businesses must ensure drivers have access to regular health checks to screen for lung diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, eye tests and obesity. These checks can identify drivers at risk so that fleet operators can take corrective measures and ensure drivers get the medical assistance they require.

Drivers should also limit the need to visit the shops during a trip. To do this, they should ensure they have all the essentials for the journey, like water, healthy meals, snacks, and medication.  

Limited stops, good road route assessments, and safe stopping areas tailored for each fleet's/business route could also limit the risk of truck-jacking and theft of parts and diesel.

“It’s no secret that the trucking industry is vital to the South African economy. Without trucks, our nation would halt. That is why it is so important that, as a leader in heavy haulage insurance, we encourage fleet operators to prioritise the health and wellness of truck drivers and other road users in the country. By ensuring vehicles are in working order and highlighting the importance of driver wellness, we can collectively promote safer South African roads," concludes Cornelissen.