By Quinton De Villiers
While an organisation’s values and principles go a long way in creating a competitive edge, they also play a large part in driving important behavioural changes that promote a culture of safety within an organisation.
This is critical in an industry that has its roots in South Africa’s large road network, the 10th-longest in the world but, sadly, also one of the most dangerous.
Of the about 900 000 vehicle collisions in the country over the past years, those involving trucks have resulted in the most fatalities and serious injuries, as well as greatest damage to property.
This year has also started off on a low note. Before the Easter holiday break, a period when road fatalities soar, there had already been a spate of dangerous accidents involving heavy vehicles.
Worryingly, many of them could have been avoided in the first place by focusing on correcting poor driver behaviour.
For example, a speeding truck was recently responsible for causing multiple injuries and damaging 18 vehicles and three trucks on the N1 North near Northcliff, Johannesburg, earlier this year.
The incident occurred after the truck collided into traffic due to an earlier accident on this highway. It struck the back of a heavy vehicle and several cars‚ causing them to crash into each other.
This follows a spate of other incidences, such as the one on the R59 in Redan, also in Gauteng. A driver lost control of his truck and ploughed into two cars ahead of him, before colliding into another heavy vehicle.
In Limpopo, a truck recently veered into a house belonging to an elderly lady in a poor area. Apparently, the heavily-fatigued driver lost control of the vehicle when he fell asleep behind the wheel.
Barring unacceptably high fatalities involving truck accidents, they have also been the cause of major injuries, such as paraplegia and quadriplegia, which leave victims permanently disabled. The costs involved in treating and rehabilitating victims exacerbates the physical and mental trauma these victims experience after an incident.
It is also important to consider the high costs to the larger South African economy. The direct costs were recently estimated to be more than R300-billion, counting expenses incurred on hospital care, police time and the clearing of accident scenes. This is in addition to indirect expenses, such as delayed or damaged cargos, as well as high insurance premiums.
According to experts, the riskiest driver behaviours include severe braking and forceful acceleration, followed by unbelted driving and distractions. Not looking far enough ahead and sharp cornering, as well as failure to keep a safe following distance has also contributed towards high accident risk. Add to this a disregard for traffic signalling and speed restrictions, exacerbated by judgement errors, unchecked mirrors and driver fatigue.
As a leading transport and logistics specialist, Bridgewater Logistics has taken a number of steps to ensure our drivers and those of our partners adhere to high safety levels.
The process starts by first identifying risky driving behaviour. On-board safety monitoring systems collate detailed information on driver behaviour and vehicle performance, such as vehicle speed, location, braking, acceleration and fuel consumption.
While cameras installed inside the cab of trucks immediately reduce bad driving behaviour by up to 45%, we constantly monitor the performance of our drivers.
Importantly, we act on the footage, which also serves as critical educational material for driver training.
Proper training transcends merely demonstrating how to operate a heavy vehicle using the truck manual.
A well-designed strategy can reduce accident rates and fatigue by as much as 50%, while also identifying and focusing on correcting small mannerisms that have a negative impact on the bottom line.
In 2016, the Road Traffic Management Corporation investigated well over 30 major accidents involving just less than 50 trucks and resulting in more than 140 fatalities and 130 injuries.
Worryingly, human factors still contribute towards 70% of the high fatalities on South Africa’s roads, demonstrating that existing awareness campaigns and safety education may be ineffective.
As such, many reputable transport and logistics companies continue to explore a host of other systems to enhance driver performance to overcome the limitations of human behavior.
These include vehicle tracking systems, which indicate if a driver needs assistance because a truck has stopped for extended periods in an operational area. This is in addition to the critical role that these technologies play in helping provide a secure road transport solution.
Forward-collision warning systems monitor the roadway in front of a vehicle using proximity sensors to caution the driver to keep a safe following distance.
Lane departure warning systems inform the driver if the vehicle inadvertently deviates outside the road marking, while fatigue warning systems use algorithms to monitor behaviour to alert inattentive or drowsy drivers.
We look forward to working with our clients and partners in the industry to help drive much-needed change on our roads!
Quinton de Villiers is the founder and managing director of Bridgewater Logistics with a long and impressive track-record in African logistics and security. Follow Quinton at #InTheFastLane for more insights and expert commentary on African transport and logistics.