Safer drivers, safer loads, safer roads

Safer drivers, safer loads, safer roads

Part two of our report of SHEQ in the local transport industry, and BLAIR BURMEISTER explores how the local transport sector is set to become smarter, safer and happier … if it has the will

Apart from environmental matters, a great deal of emphasis is also placed on safety in transport, which was the topic of discussion at a series of recent Chemical and Allied Industries Association (CAIA) workshops held in partnership with Responsible Care.

In his discussion on the latest legal and physical requirements for the safe securing of vehicle loads, Richard Durant, an expert in the operations and management of road freight logistics and proprietor of Transheq Consulting, stressed the dire consequences of poor load securing.

Durant revealed that in 2011 there were 80 lost loads on the N3 Toll Route between Johannesburg and Durban alone, a substantial increase from the 52 experienced in 2010. “When you are uncertain – do more than you need to,” he said. “No-one was ever criticised for securing a load too well.”

Property damage, injury, legal implications, and business downtime are among the possible consequences of poor load securing, particularly with dangerous goods or hazardous chemicals. “Not to mention the damage to a company’s image and reputation when it comes to destruction of the environment,” said Durant. “Businesses do not want to be associated with that.”

In addition to lost loads, driver fatigue too results in heavy commercial vehicle accidents; the levels of injury and loss arising from such accidents unacceptably high.

“A huge amount of stress – physical and psychological – is placed on the driver,” said Dr Marina Botha, occupational health and wellbeing consultant at EOH Health, explaining most drivers work long hours at night with very few shift changes. “They are exposed to unfavourable environments and end up leading sedentary lifestyles, lacking good food and healthy choices – causing fatigue.”

Botha added that many people don’t realise the danger of driving while fatigued, causing thousands of accidents each year. “The risk of fatigue can be reduced, but it calls for dedication from management and the co-operation of employees,” she said. Focused driver wellness and management programmes should complement a company’s occupational health and safety programme, primary health care programme and employee wellbeing programme with additional employee benefits and curative care.

Craig Warr, operations director for the Manline Group, a logistics operation based in Pietermaritzburg, spoke passionately about Manline’s success with its driver training, wellness and management programmes. The company has become an employer of choice as its effective campaigns put drivers at the centre of the business.

Manline believes that commitment to the driver force is key to the success of operations and Warr explained that communication with its drivers is an important element of Manline’s risk management strategy, while onboard cameras and vehicle monitoring systems ensure strict, monitored sleeping and stopping procedures are kept. The company further has an extensive driver wellness programme giving drivers access to annual medical check-ups, HIV/Aids programmes, health education programmes and primary health care services.

There have been concerns that some supposedly professional operators don’t assist their drivers in these areas. The success emanating from Manline’s commitment to driver management is self-evident, and will hopefully influence other managers to implement similar programmes.

Last year’s truck drivers’ strike painted a poor picture of the relationship between drivers and their employees. There is clearly a need for both parties to work together to ensure safety on our roads and stability in our country. The payback will be incalculable.

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