Delivering essential goods safely and responsibly

23 April 2020 Santam

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 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 unique physically demanding con¬ditions, 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 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 in 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 is 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 who are 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 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 are 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.

3. Schedule safe places to stop and rest
• Good road route assessments and safe stopping areas tailored for each of the company’s routes could limit the risk of truck-jacking and theft of cargo.

4. Manage expectations with dispatchers
• Expectations of drivers, dispatchers and other operators in the value chain should be 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, thereby creating 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 are not limited to:
• WhatsApp Groups comprising road freight operators and other key stakeholders have been set up. 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 face challenges in delivering goods. The types of issues truckers have had to deal with include getting the necessary operating permits, 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, that cars transporting essential workers to and from their jobs have petrol, and that South Africa has access to medical supplies. Let us make sure their well-being is always prioritised.

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