Business urged to ensure road worthiness of commercial fleet vehicles ahead of Easter weekend

28 March 2024 MiWay Insurance

In South Africa, the Easter weekend is one of the most-anticipated long weekends of the year, with many motorists taking to the roads for the long-haul to visit outlying travel destinations.

With the holiday hype, it brings a heightened demand for consumer goods and certain services, which makes Easter a peak time for wheels on the road. In light of this, commercial fleet owners need to take extra precautions to keep their vehicles and staff safe.

This is according to Jason Mellow, Head of Broker Distribution at MiWay Insurance who says that periods of high traffic warrant a high-alert approach that takes all risks into account- from those relating to the roadworthiness of vehicles to those relating to the wellness of fleet drivers. “Typically, the Easter period is associated not only with a higher frequency of road accidents, but also with the greater severity of accidents. There are a number of factors that contribute to this unfortunate reality.

For this reason, preparedness is the best prevention strategy. By putting adequate safety measures in place and ensuring that responsible driving policies are well-communicated, unnecessary financial losses and long-term business disruption can be avoided.”

The most recent State of Road Safety Report by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) showed that there is indeed cause for concern[1]. The number of fatal crashes which took place over the Easter weekend in 2023 was 33% higher than the previous year. Furthermore, light delivery vehicles, combis/minibuses and articulated trucks were amongst the top 5 vehicle types involved in fatal crashes over the period. These findings illustrate, that safer commercial fleet operations could go a long way in curbing fatal road incidents during peak traffic periods.

Mellow has the following tips for business owners who need to keep their commercial fleets safe this Easter:

Promote optimal driver preparedness
The report by the RTMC attributed three main contributing factors to road fatalities over the Easter period. At over 90%, the overwhelming majority of fatal crashes were attributed to human behaviors. Honing in on what some of these determinants were, the report found that the highest contributor was hit-and run, with driver fatigue or falling asleep behind the wheel also among the top 10 factors.

These behavioural aspects can be managed by investing resources into road emergency education and training, and wellness initiatives to increase driver awareness on the road and advocate for their health and wellbeing. For example, now is the ideal time to rehash company policies that relate to what to do in the event of a crash or road emergency. Procedures need to be simple enough to follow instinctively in high-stress scenarios as well as aligned with health and safety regulations.

In the period heading up to Easter, driver health also needs to be prioritised. Business owners could provide drivers with access to basic health screenings for conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and sleep apnea. Drivers should also be encouraged to take regular rest breaks, stay hydrated and adopt healthy diets – this will ensure optimal concentration and alertness during long stretches on the road.

Essential vehicle checks
Apart from these human factors, Mellow also asserts that this year in particular may be tough for delivery and bulk goods transport drivers, due to the deteriorating state of public road infrastructure. Several infrastructure experts and road analysts have declared South African roads to be in a state of crisis, with heavy rainfall having a further material impact on road users[2].

With the Easter weekend roughly marking the beginning of autumn, weather patterns can be unpredictable, increasing the chances of slippery road surfaces, potholes, poor visibility and loose tarmac. A number of these infrastructural pitfalls were named in the RTMC’s report as contributing factors to fatal crashes over Easter last year.

In light of this, commercial fleet vehicles need to be double checked for roadworthiness before leaving their starting point. Some of the aspects that need to be monitored closely are the state of the tyres – whether tread depth is within the safe and legal limit, and whether the tyres are properly inflated as per manufacturing guidelines. Furthermore, the condition of each vehicle’s brakes needs to be carefully checked and cross-referenced with the car’s service history.

Protect your finances with fleet insurance
Even the most prepared drivers and vehicle owners can however, be caught off-guard when the unexpected occurs. Drivers of commercial vehicles share the road with other drivers and pedestrians and can, in many ways, be subject to the irresponsible behaviour of others. Fortunately, commercial fleet insurance provides a much-needed buffer against many kinds of road incidents.

Heading into the long weekend, business owners need to read through their policy documents to ensure that they have a full understanding of their policy wording, including important aspects like excesses, exclusions, add-on clauses and coverage limits. Your insurer should provide you with 24 hour emergency assistance at the scene of any incident, so make sure that your drivers have these numbers available. And, as Mellow concludes: “having a fleet insurer who can provide a large degree of flexibility is always a major plus.

MiWay’s clients for example, enjoy tailored policies that cater for the greatest hazards that face each type of fleet. Policies can cover aspects such as driver dishonesty, cross-border travel and loss of fuel. Business owners also gain access to a network of heavy commercial vehicle towing providers and repair services. These are the kinds of added-value offerings that can come in extremely handy when the road ahead takes a rocky turn.”

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