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In 2017, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) reported 1270 fatalities linked to trucks. Despite making up just 0.36% of registered vehicles in SA, trucks account for 11% of road crash fatalities. Why? A road safety awareness event run by Santam and the RTMC in November 2018 points to fatigue as causality number one. This should prompt some serious ripple reactions for relevant business owners, in the interest of looking after their drivers and vehicle fleets.
At the event, 80 trucks were inspected, and their respective drivers were interviewed and given free medical examinations by the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI). Sibusiso (pseudonym) – who has been working behind the wheel for 15 years – was one of many drivers to pinpoint pressure as a compounding factor, “In the truck industry, it is normal for a driver to drive for 18 hours a day, but we cannot make people sit in the office for that long. I earn less than R10 000 and I am away from my family for one to four weeks at times.”
92% of the participating drivers attributed fatigue as the major cause of truck accidents. 97% had families with children. Time away from family can also exacerbate feelings of loneliness and fatigue. Interestingly, over 77% of drivers were under 45 years of age and 34% had been driving for under five years. This suggests a worryingly high turnover, with the industry seemingly failing to retain high-performing older talent.
What can business owners do to improve driver wellness?
Truck drivers work under uniquely physically demanding conditions, putting them at increased risk of a range of chronic health conditions, including diabetes and hypertension. Prioritising the health and wellness of truck drivers is not a nice-to-have but a business necessity. Your team is invaluable. And your trucks can total anything up to R2.5-million to replace, and that’s without cargo costs factored in. Here are some suggestions on how to improve employee wellness:
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