Home Fleetwatch 2022 Survey reveals alarming trends in the SME road freight sector

Survey reveals alarming trends in the SME road freight sector

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Oliver Naidoo, managing director of JC Auditors: “The key findings from the survey indicate a widespread absence of safety protocols that in turn jeopardise the well-being of both heavy vehicle drivers and public road users.”
Oliver Naidoo, managing director of JC Auditors: “The key findings from the survey indicate a widespread absence of safety protocols that in turn jeopardise the well-being of both heavy vehicle drivers and public road users.”

A recent online survey conducted by JC Auditors (JCA) has highlighted a concerning lack of safety systems within the road freight sector of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMMEs).

The survey, conducted with the objective of evaluating safety practices and measures in the industry, uncovered a disheartening scenario that necessitates collective action to significantly improve South Africa’s lamentable road safety record.

According to Oliver Naidoo, Managing Director of JCA, the key findings from the survey indicate a widespread absence of safety protocols that in turn jeopardise the well-being of both heavy vehicle drivers and public road users. “It also has a significant economic impact considering that the last Road Traffic Management Corporation report indicated the cost of crashes to be R142-billion – or 3,4% of GDP.” 

The survey conducted with SME road freight companies from across the country revealed the following alarming trends:

Poor Compliance with Regulations: The survey findings revealed a concerning lack of compliance with the relevant requirements of the National Road Traffic Act and other industry standards, with 64% of participating companies lacking proper compliance measures.

Insufficient Vehicle Maintenance: 68% of SMME road freight companies were found to have inadequate vehicle maintenance programmes. “Neglecting proper maintenance increases the risk of mechanical failures, leading to accidents and disruptions in supply chains,” says Naidoo.

Safe Loading: 87% of companies did not actively monitor their compliance with the legal mass limits outlined in the Road Traffic Act.

Inadequate Safety Training: 72% of respondents reported insufficient driver training. “This lack of training heightens the risk of accidents and undermines the overall safety culture on our roads,” says Naidoo, adding that while formal driver training is crucial, it is just one element in fostering the necessary safe driving culture. “Driver monitoring, coaching and visible management commitment are also vital,” he says.

Driver Medical Fitness: 78% of companies indicated that drivers were not assessed for medical fitness on an annual basis and 92% of companies were unaware of whether any of their drivers had chronic illnesses.

Naidoo has expressed grave concern regarding these findings, highlighting the urgency for collaboration among industry stakeholders, regulatory bodies, and government authorities to address the identified deficiencies within the SME road freight sector. 

However, he says, amid the challenges there remains an opportunity presented by the survey findings. “It provides us with a chance to enhance the safety culture within SMEs and implement robust systems that foster a safe operating environment.”

He cites some of these measures as being the development of a robust safety policy; conduct comprehensive risk assessments; enhance driver selection and training; implement driver monitoring systems; ensure vehicle maintenance; encourage incident reporting and investigation, to mention a few

No money for maintenance equals no brakes, no air bags, no safe operation. It’s the end of the road for this small operator.
No money for maintenance equals no brakes, no air bags, no safe operation. It’s the end of the road for this small operator.

“The implementation of these steps can lead to substantial improvements in safety performance, risk mitigation and the well-being of employees and the public for a SME road freight company,” says Naidoo, pointing to the Road Transport Management System (RTMS) as being an excellent tool to facilitate the implementation of these measures, promoting both transport safety and business sustainability.

Over the past 15 years, JCA has conducted more than 5000 RTMS audits, with certified companies presenting compelling case studies demonstrating exceptional safety improvements. These improvements include reduced overloads, enhanced vehicle utilization, improved preventive maintenance, better driving behaviour, and, most importantly, a significant reduction in accidents.

Editor’s Footnote: The findings of this survey do not come as a surprise to FleetWatch as for many years, we have been saying that there are a countless number of smaller companies operating trucks to sub-standard  practices. Our Brake & Tyre Watch project gives evidence to this where out of over 760 trucks tested over the past 10 years, the failure rate has been 69%. The bigger, more established companies have the internal resources to pursue Best Practise Principles. The smaller companies – say 1 to 5 trucks – are chasing their tails on a daily basis with many ignoring the basics of professional transport operations as they strive to keep their wheels rolling. And it is not just the trucks we see on the Brake & Tyre Watch events. It is also our on-the-road experiences. I highlight one picture below as an example. This was on axle on one of the trailers on a side tipper combination that had been bought for R400 000 by a man whose dream it was to get into transport. He had a breakdown and I stopped to talk to him. He had no money for maintenance. He told me he had now reached the end of the road. The picture tells why. The rest of the rig was equally bad. There are many like him. It is thus I say that the results of this survey may surprise many – but they do not surprise us and we compliment JC Auditors on conducting this survey: – Patrick O’Leary

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