It’s a sad reality that the good work truck drivers do in serving the needs of society and the economy has of late been overshadowed by a number of high profile crashes and incidents that have occurred around the country – the latest being the horrific crash on the M41 in Durban where a ‘runaway’ truck took out around 50 cars. This is a great pity for it serves to impart to the public a negative image of all truck drivers – and indeed the trucking industry as a whole – and in doing so, overshadows the excellent work thousands of truck drivers do on a daily basis in delivering the goods of South Africa writes Patrick O’Leary.
Yes, it is true that there are many miscreant truck drivers who are untrained and act as a menace on the road. While such drivers get no sanction from FleetWatch we do, however, also point to the rot which permeates beyond those drivers including the truck operators who employ such drivers.
I have spoken to drivers operating horribly unroadworthy rigs and when asked why they don’t report the faults to their bosses, they say they do but are met with the attitude that they either drive or be fired. Shame on their employers for they care neither for the professional standards of their drivers nor the safety of others on the roads. They are there for the buck and just as their drivers shouldn’t be in the driver’s seat of a rig, they shouldn’t be in the driver’s seat of any transport company.
Then there are the licensing departments where officials abuse their positions to indulge in the well-known ‘eat a little’ practice so commonly employed in government departments – oh yes, and in Eskom as well it seems. At many licensing departments around the country, licenses are issued fraudulently in return for a brushing of the palm with crispy notes. And then you get the ‘Dial a COF’ test centres where COF (Certificates of Fitness) are issued without an examiner ever seeing, never mind testing, a vehicle.
Am I exaggerating? If I was, then why on earth did the former Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula announce at a media conference in October last year that over 190 000 illegally obtained driver’s licenses had been sent to provincial MECs for cancellation. This followed a probe by the Special Investigating Unit into various activities of the Department of Transport in an effort to combat on-going fraud and corruption at driving licence testing centres (DLTC).
There are a lot of ills in the industry and it is no wonder then that road fatalities are a crisis in South Africa. Thankfully there were no deaths in the horror Durban crash but six people were taken to hospital with critical injures and over 20 were treated for less serious injuries. It could have been so much worse. Every year there are well over 12 000 deaths on our roads.
However, while these realities cannot be ignored, what must also not be ignored is the fact that there are many transport companies who do care about the safety of their drivers and other road users and go out of their way to operate to best practise standards. There are also many truck drivers who are highly qualified and operate to the highest levels of responsible driving. It is these companies and drivers who are the unsung heroes of the economy and as stated, it is unfortunate that they are overshadowed by the miscreants who are allowed to operate in this industry.
One organisation which not only wants to highlight these ‘unsung heroes’ while at the same time improve road safety for all is Hollard Trucking which, for some years now, has been working to enhance road safety in South Africa through its Highway Heroes competition. This is a competition which identifies and rewards South Africa’s best and safest truck drivers – and for the first time this year, bus drivers as well.
At a recent media event held to launch the 2023 competition, Paul Dangerfield, Hollard Trucking National Operations Manager, said Highway Heroes is all about improving road safety in that it promotes safer driving practices.
“The Hollard Highway Heroes competition has led to a big improvement in participating drivers’ road behaviour. Better driving, in turn, reduces risk and leads to safer roads. It also means lower fuel and maintenance costs, and fewer claims.”
This year, for the first time, the competition is open to drivers of all truck and bus fleets – not only those affiliated to Hollard. “By including bus drivers in the competition, we want to have a greater positive influence on enhancing road safety in South Africa. But the broader mission is to go beyond trucking and buses to cut risk and reduce road-accident claims and the tragic loss of life,” said Dangerfield.
Last year, Hollard Highway Heroes received 2 400 entries. This year the aim is to attract at least 5 000 truck drivers and a decent first cohort of bus drivers. Entries were opened on 1 March and will remain open until 31 May. After the first monitoring phase ends on 31 July, 50 truck drivers and 20 bus drivers will progress to the second assessment phase from 1 September to 15 October.
And check this out. There are big cash prizes to be won: R50 000 for five category winners, R100 000 for the top bus driver and a whopping R150 000 for the overall winning truck driver. The winners will be crowned at a high-profile gala event at Emperors Palace, Ekurhuleni, on 17 November.
“We’re deeply invested in entrenching safe driving practices, and creating shared value by making South Africa’s roads safer for all road users – whether you’re a fleet owner, broker, driver, community member, or one of our sponsor partners in this initiative. Our message is: we are where you are!” said Dangerfield.
“This ties in with our overarching business purpose at Hollard: to create better futures for all. We believe good drivers help us create better futures for all road users by delivering their cargo and passengers safely and responsibly, and by being an example to others.”
The two main partners of the campaign this year are cTrack and CTU Bus Insurance supported by various other organisations such as JC Auditors, well known for its work in the Road Transport Management System (RTMS) arena.
Commenting on the campaign, managing director of JC Auditors, Oliver Naidoo, says they believe that recognizing drivers for their hard work and dedication is essential in promoting driver safety and maintaining a positive work environment.
“In the last 15 years of conducting more than 6000 RTMS audits, we’ve become acutely aware of the severe lack of adequate systems and resources when it comes to managing drivers, which often translates to poor driving behaviour and ever-increasing crash rates. So we see the Hollard Highway Heroes campaign as having a number of positive impacts,” says Naidoo, listing these impacts as the following:
- It boosts morale: Recognizing drivers for their accomplishments and contributions can boost morale and motivate them to continue working hard to maintain high safety standards.
- It reinforces positive behaviours: Recognizing drivers for exhibiting positive safety behaviours, such as following safety protocols, wearing personal protective equipment and reporting safety hazards, can reinforce these behaviours and encourage them to become habits.
- It encourages peer recognition: Peer recognition can be a powerful motivator and encouraging drivers to recognize and appreciate their colleagues’ contributions to safety can foster a positive team culture and promote a sense of camaraderie.
- It improves driver retention: Driver recognition can also help to improve driver retention by demonstrating to drivers that their contributions are valued and appreciated, which can increase job satisfaction and reduce turnover.
“All these factors serve to enhance the status of drivers by recognition and in so doing, can contribute to the required change in driver culture that we need on our roads,” says Oliver.
What FleetWatch loves about this competition is that not only does it promote safer driving but it also elevates truck drivers from their general ‘unsung’ status onto a platform of ‘Hero’ status. And believe me, there are many drivers who deserve this elevated status. So, to all operators, get your driver entries in before the deadline of May 31st 2023.