Supporting human capital behind the wheel
The South African transport industry has some world-class elements to it. GAVIN MYERS finds out how Mercedes-Benz Trucks South Africa’s advanced driver training and driver-wellness initiatives helps to raise the standard
Road transport is often said to be the lifeblood of South Africa’s economy. The vast majority of goods are transported by road across the country, as well as to and from neighbouring countries. There are, therefore, numerous aspects of the transport system that must be taken into account to ensure safe and efficient transport.
These include the road infrastructure (of which South Africa’s national routes are indeed up to world-class standards), the vehicles themselves (again, South Africa has some world-class long-distance transport operations that are run to high standards of safety, efficiency and environmental friendliness) and the drivers who, quite literally, live on the road.
It is the drivers who are possibly the most critical aspect in the chain. A well-trained driver behind the wheel will save the company costs related to wear and tear on the vehicle, its fuel consumption and insurance premiums. The driver will also ensure the load gets to its destination on time and in good condition.
Beginning in October Transport Month (OTM) 2017, and running until the end of the year, Mercedes-Benz Trucks South Africa took it upon itself to offer complimentary training to 200 of the country’s commercial vehicle drivers. It is doing this through its FleetBoard division, which is responsible for telematics, fleet-management and driver training.
Globally, there are about 220 000 trucks linked to the FleetBoard system, which is increasingly sophisticated and technologically advanced.
“As the leading truck manufacturer in South Africa, it is imperative for Mercedes-Benz Trucks to continue to increase the safety of our transport system. FleetBoard Professional Driver Training yields highly competent drivers that have been trained and tested and can be trusted,” comments Jasper Hafkamp, executive director for Daimler Trucks & Buses Southern Africa.
Through its OTM training initiative, the selected drivers had their skills sharpened by the renowned FleetBoard Professional Driver Training team. This programme provides tailor-made, high-quality training that contributes to the development of skilled, professional drivers.
“Mercedes-Benz Trucks realises the importance improved road safety. Businesses and consumers are at an advantage when goods can be transported faster and more efficiently on our roads. This increased mobility, in turn, positively affects the economy, which impacts South Africa’s social development,” comments Hafkamp.
Naturally, the driver-assistance technology inherent in Mercedes-Benz trucks helps ease the driver’s job.
“Besides positively contributing to the growth of the South African economy, safety is also of paramount importance to us and we have been a leader in this area for decades. Life-saving safety features on our vehicles – such as Telligent Lane Assist, Telligent Stability Control, Telligent Distance Control, Active Brake Assist and Driver Airbag – are just some of the ways we have actively contributed to preventing road accidents,” Hafkamp adds.
Mercedes-Benz South Africa’s involvement doesn’t end there, though. For more than two decades it has invested in driver health through the Trucking Wellness campaign – in a bid to help the country’s drivers maintain their health while enduring life on the road.
“The most important asset of a company is its human capital. In the transport industry, the driver is the most important asset a company can have. Trucking Wellness aims to keep the wheels of this powerful industry turning by supporting drivers in staying healthy, providing them with a holistic approach to health and wellness,” explains Hafkamp.
Initiatives like this are especially important considering the transport industry is challenged by the impact of poor health and shortened lifespan of its workforce.
“The illness or loss of skilled, professional drivers has a direct impact on the operations of our customers and impacts on the economy of South Africa. The effects of HIV/Aids can be felt in the constant search to replace lost drivers, either through high absenteeism or death. The results are a reduced earning potential or the closure of transport companies and the loss of jobs,” Hafkamp adds.
“Trucking Wellness treats and supports the drivers and educates them on all aspects of general health and specifically HIV/Aids. We believe as we educate the drivers of the country, they in turn educate their families, friends and communities. In this way we spread the word and help create a better and healthier South Africa.”
Mercedes-Benz South Africa has even gone a step further in recent years, extending its support to five of its customers by setting up wellness programmes for them.
“As a close-knit family we continue to ensure that the physical and mental health of fleet drivers is always at the forefront. It seems like I am stating the obvious, but not a single fleet would be in existence if it was not for the men and women behind the wheels. They selflessly give of their all to feed their families, maintain their companies’ existence and even keep economies growing. For this, we will always be in their debt,” Hafkamp says.
It is through initiatives such as offering driver training, introducing potentially life-saving technology and supporting the overall health and wellbeing of drivers that will lead to increased competence, efficiency and safety of the South African transport industry.
“By producing safer, healthier drivers, Mercedes-Benz Trucks is helping to move South Africa forward,” Hafkamp concludes.