Delivering essential goods safely and responsibly

Specialist Business

Delivering essential goods safely and responsibly

Published: 08 October 2021

The heavy haulage industry is the heartbeat of the South African economy and never has this been truer than now in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fleet operators and truck drivers must continue working during the national lockdown to ensure that stores, pharmacies and hospitals are well stocked with essential and medical supplies. Many fleet operators may be working with skeleton staff putting them and the drivers under immense pressure. By the very nature of this industry, truck drivers work under uniquely physically demanding con­ditions, putting them at increased risk of a range of chronic health conditions, including diabetes and hypertension. These conditions coupled with fatigue can negatively affect the reaction time and can significantly increase the risk of collisions.

As Santam, we encourage fleet operators to prioritise the health and wellness of truck drivers during the lockdown and ensure adequate steps are taken to keep drivers healthy and safe. It is only times like these that it becomes evident that truck drivers play an important role in the economy, not just in times of disaster but every day.

Below is a list of tips that can help keep truck drivers safer on the roads:

1. Take care of drivers

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

  • Regular health checks. One of the groups at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 are people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions. These may include but are not limited to lung diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity. These checks can identify drivers at a higher risk and limit their exposure to the virus.
  • Limit the need to go into shops during a trip. Drivers should make sure that they have all the essentials with them (water, healthy meals and snacks, any medication, masks, hand sanitiser, etc.).
2. Driving and rest periods

The Professional Drivers’ Digest lists the following as the recommended driving and rest periods:

  • Hours of service. Drivers not to work more than 90 hours in any week, inclusive of ordinary hours of work, overtime hours and hours worked on a Sunday or public holidays.
  • Drivers should get plenty of rest and a minimum of six hours sleep before a long drive.
  • No more than five hours continuous driving, followed by a break of at least 15 minutes must be taken.
3. Schedule safe places to stop and rest

Good road route assessments and safe stopping areas tailored for each of the fleets’ / companies’ routes could limit the risk of truck-jacking and theft of cargo

4. Manage expectations with dispatchers
  • Expectations between drivers, dispatchers and other operators in the value chain should managed effectively.
  • There are very few vehicles on the road and drivers may be tempted to drive too fast to meet the demand. Drivers should stick to the speed limit at all times and obey all the rules of the road.
  • Fleet operators can help drivers establish detailed trip plans which create a better balance between client demands, hours of service, regulations and the need to rest.

5. Use of technology (telematics/vehicle monitoring/dashboard cameras)

  • With the latest technology fleets can connect their cameras to Lane Departure Warning Systems which will record videos when trucks gradually drift out of a lane.
  • This can identify sudden changes in driver behaviour that could indicate drowsy driving thus minimising accidents.

6. Take note of the initiatives by the Road Freight Association. These include but not limited to:

  • WhatsApp Groups comprising road freight operators and other key stakeholders have been setup. This initiative has proven to be effective, creating a powerful network for truckers and enabling accurate information to be shared timeously, as well as clarifying misunderstandings, removing bottlenecks, giving updates and sharing key contacts.
  • Guidelines for the many new Regulations that have been introduced in the past few weeks relating to COVID-19 and the Disaster Management Act. These Regulations cover matters such as additions to essential services, the extension of validity of licences (learners & drivers), Professional Driving Permits (PrDPs), vehicle licences, roadworthiness certificates, as well as temporary permits.
  • Interventions where members have challenges in delivering goods. The types of issues truckers have had to deal with include getting the necessary permits to operate, being stuck at roadblocks, being stopped in towns – despite having all the necessary documents, as well as congestion at border posts

Truck drivers will most likely be the unsung heroes of this lockdown. They are keeping South Africa going, making sure that our families are fed, cars that get essential workers to and from their jobs have petrol and that South Africa has access to medical supplies. Let us make sure that their well-being is always prioritised.