Nicci Scott-Anderson, founder of the Commercial Transport Academy (CTA), is a lady with a mission and that is to create a more secure and supportive environment for all commercial truck drivers across the country. To this end, she has launched the SaferStops Association (SSA), an organisation dedicated to transforming the landscape for commercial drivers in South Africa. Patrick O’Leary was at the launch.
This energetic lady has been the driving force behind empowering and training women to enter the commercial truck driver arena and it is perhaps ironical that while pinpointing obstacles preventing women from embarking on long-haul trucking careers, she found that the needs of male drivers are also not being adequately catered to. What’s that saying about “It takes a women to….”
FleetWatch has in the past stated to Scott-Anderson that we are totally against women driving long haul routes in the current climate that is South Africa. On-the road risks have made it extremely dangerous for truck drivers with many male drivers openly stating that they are running scared out on the roads. They are afraid of being hijacked, attacked and mugged if their truck breaks down on the side of the road or if they get caught up in some service delivery protest or, worse, having a petrol bomb thrown at their truck. Apart from the personal safety risks, we also stated to her that truck stop facilities are not suited to cater to the needs of female truck drivers.
This is a not a chauvinistic attitude on our part. Yes, we know the bra was burnt many years ago so call us conservative, old-fashioned or way behind the times. Call us whatever you like. However, we like our women to be safe – and that ain’t gonna change. Criminality is rife on the roads – more so now than ever in the past – and the long haul, in our opinion, is not a safe place for women. Yes, we’re all for women drivers entering the industry but until South Africa’s long haul routes become safer for all drivers, the FMCG local distribution arena is where women can play a major role. And then we get to the truck stop facilities.
Well, on this latter point, Scott-Anderson took the bull by the horns and conducted a hands-on investigation of truck stops along some principle routes. While doing so, she realised that it’s not only female drivers that the majority of truck stops do not cater to. Male drivers are also getting short-changed.
“Our investigation of truck stops along principal routes revealed widespread shortcomings in catering to the physical and emotional well-being of all drivers, irrespective of their gender,” she says. “We also identified a pattern linking a multitude of road accidents to chronic fatigue. This exhaustion isn’t merely linked to insufficient sleep but is frequently tied to poor nutrition, adrenal burnout, sleep apnea, and lifestyle diseases commonly affecting truck drivers.”
Realising all this, she decided to do something about it and thus the birth of the SaferStops Association which was launched on July 13th as a public-private partnership.
The SaferStops initiative has received support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), providing vital seed funding and support. Additionally, numerous prominent companies, government departments and industry associations have forged partnerships with SaferStops, demonstrating their commitment to the cause.
Notable collaborators include Hollard, Ctrack, Engen, UD Trucks, Guud, Michelin, the Department of Transport, the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport, as well as the Road Freight Association and the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry.
According to Scott-Anderson, the SaferStops initiative is founded on five key pillars:
- Improving truck stops infrastructure: Setting an industry benchmark for the standardisation of truck stop facilities and infrastructure, creating a space for drivers to rejuvenate.
- Health and wellness initiatives: Providing access to tailored resources and support for maintaining physical, emotional and mental health.
- Education and development: Offering opportunities for training to move from the class and into the cab, as drivers use new technologies to enhance their skills and knowledge.
- Research and data collection: Conducting research on truck driver welfare, working conditions and industry trends, to inform policies and programmes.
- Public awareness campaigns: The launching of campaigns to increase awareness of the challenges that truck drivers encounter, daily.
SaferStops has already initiated some projects aimed at improving driver well-being and safety. One such project introduces healthy meal alternatives for commercial drivers at truck stops. Additionally, the focus extends to exercise facilities, with plans to provide drivers with access to on-site gyms, allowing them to stretch, work out, and break the routine of spending up to 12 hours in a truck.
Mental health is another priority for SaferStops. “We now know that depression is one of the leading problems truck drivers suffer from, particularly with the time they spend alone. Mental, physical and emotional health are all key and we will be looking to address all of these requirements,” says Scott-Anderson.
Moreover, there is a dire need to provide drivers with WiFi access and entertainment facilities at truck stops, to enable them to rest and recuperate en route.
To empower drivers with valuable skills and new qualifications, SaferStops is developing easily accessible and user-friendly education and learning materials. These resources will be designed to be readily accessible and easily digestible, ensuring that drivers can conveniently enhance their knowledge and acquire new qualifications.
“We know we cannot tackle this challenge alone,” says Scott-Anderson. “As the bedrock of the logistics industry and wider economy, truck drivers perform an essential role and should be considered essential workers. Their tireless efforts power our communities and it’s our turn to give back. At SaferStops, our dedication is unwavering – to elevate the facilities, infrastructure, and resources that these crucial workers rely upon, with an unerring focus on fostering safer truck stops.”
It’s a grand vision and one that is going to take a lot of determination and guts to achieve. On this point, Nicci Scott-Anderson has the vision, the determination and the guts to make it happen. Watch this space.