Helping truck drivers to deliver the load safely and responsibly

28 August 2019 Anton Cornelissen, Head Santam Heavy Haulage

The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) reported an average 44% increase in fatalities due to car crashes from the previous year. Despite making up just 0.36% of all registered vehicles in South Africa, trucks accounted for 11% of road crash fatalities. That is why Santam Heavy Haulage partnered with the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) to focus on truck driver wellness and to heighten the road safety message, “delivering the load safely and responsibly”, in efforts to reduce the number of preventable truck fatalities.

The partnership, now in its second year, hosted a road safety awareness event at Mantsole weighbridge, Limpopo, on Thursday, 22 August 2019. Truck drivers were interviewed and educated about the dangers of fatigue and poor health on their ability to complete a journey safely. The National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI) also gave them free medical examinations and law enforcement officers inspected the trucks to ensure they were roadworthy and not overloaded.

Anton Cornelissen, Head of Santam Heavy Haulage says that: “Truck drivers work under uniquely physically demanding con¬ditions, 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.”

Below, Anton shares seven suggestions on how business owners can improve employee wellness:

1. Make it a top-down commitment. Leaders need to cascade the importance of wellness – physical and mental – throughout the company. Implement a health and wellbeing policy that includes fatigue management. This means enforcing strict driving hours and consequences for shifts that stretch beyond these hours.

2. Introduce flexible work hours. Build in time for driving breaks, meal breaks and exercise.

3. Nominate team members to lead wellness programmes. Let them spread the message and values among the other drivers.

4. Conduct health checks on new team members. Offer regular check-ups to all staff. Additionally, check in with your team to assess their general happiness and to address any challenges they feel they’re facing.

5. Have frequent workshops on wellness and safety briefings. Discuss important things like the impact of sleep deprivation. Bring in experts who can lead meditation and mindfulness sessions or stretching and aerobic exercises.

6. Monitor how long drivers have been away from their families. Try and rotate long shifts to minimise the time each person must spend away from loved ones.

7. Tap into smart technologies. There are existing technologies you can use that monitors how long a vehicle has been driving on the road without stopping for a break, to coach drivers on behaviour and fatigue related patterns of driving and high-risk times.

“Heavy commercial trucks are one of the most expensive assets, retailing from R2, 5 million, not to mention the cargo they transport. We have seen a significant increase in the number of single-vehicle accidents caused by trucks and our aim is to curb this carnage and safeguard the drivers, trucks and their cargo” Anton concludes.

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