Putting driver safety first

Road freight safety on South African roads is of primary importance for a strong and safe supply chain, with driver training and health programmes like Trucking Wellness being of high priority.

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The Trucking Wellness Programme was launched in 1999 as an initiative of the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI). The programme is a primary healthcare delivery system dedicated to the health and wellness of those employed in the Road Freight and Logistics Industry.

Over the years, Trucking Wellness has evolved into a sustainable model of primary healthcare delivery to key populations through a blend of sleek mobile Wellness Centres and 22 fixed roadside Wellness Centres.

These Clinics can be found on all major trucking routes and across South Africa’s borders. Since its inception, the programme has grown into providing a holistic approach to health and wellness which encompasses a wide range of client specific, easily accessible and free primary health care services. To find out more we caught up with Tertius Wessels, Managing Director of Trucking Wellness.

What is the latest on the fight against HIV in the trucking community, are things getting under control?

Absolutely! Trucking Wellness (previously known as Trucking Against AIDS) is a National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI) initiative, which was launched to create awareness around HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections among long-distance truck drivers, commercial sex workers and those at risk such as driver spouses and partners. To date, Trucking Wellness has provided healthcare education to more than 700 000 individuals and more than 400 000 patients have been consulted and have received various forms of treatment and care. Over 21 million condoms have been distributed to these key population groups since inception. Currently there are over 3 000 people on ARV treatment in the industry and although we are making an impact, I think there is still a long way to go.

How did the high HIV infections rates of the 90’s affect the supply chain and knock-on effect to the economy?

With the lack of education around how to live a healthy lifestyle while being HIV positive, people are falling victim to the disease. Illness results in lower labour productivity due to absenteeism or worse, and having to source new employees due to death. Additionally, healthy individuals who are not living with the disease often have to take time off work to look after their loved ones who have HIV/AIDS.

In terms of a business’ supply chain, the effectiveness is hugely compromised by HIV/AIDS. If the road freight and logistics industry is unable to move goods across the country efficiently due to employee illness, economic growth is negatively impacted as goods are ultimately not delivered on time, every time. This has a knock-on effect for other parts of these businesses, as it ultimately means that their operations are not running smoothly.

How have your Roadside Wellness Centres helped foster a more healthy point of contact for drivers, families and communities since 1999?

Since 1999, Trucking Wellness has steadily grown into a sustainable model of primary healthcare delivery to those working in the road freight and logistics industry as well as their their families and surrounding communities. Both our roadside and mobile clinics are well looked after and equipped with all the latest medical supplies and headed by highly qualified nurses. As a result, individuals feel safe when visiting our clinics and feel free to discuss any healthcare issues with our nurses.

How many employees, within the road freight industry, was Trucking Wellness able to positively impact on in 2015/16?

During the 2015/2016 financial year, we distributed an estimated 1 525 889 condoms and about 19 686 employees were counselled and tested for HIV via our mobile wellness centres. Additionally, 39 415 people were educated across our 22 roadside wellness centres. These figures are minimal when looking at the bigger picture of what our programme does and the number of lives we have managed to improve.

What has been the buy in from big to smaller fleet operators, and where do you see an opportunity for more assistance?

We received phenomenal buy in from operators, however it seems that the smaller operators are still a bit reluctant or do not know how to access the services, and the costs for these services. The services are absolutely free of charge for all companies registered to the NBCRFLI and we can be contacted at 011 914 1610 or Thobela@coremp.co.za / eric@coremp.co.za to arrange a booking.

What are the benefits of the mobile clinics for remote depots?

The mobile clinics are perfect for remote depots as we work on a system where we book a vehicle for ten days at a time and service all companies within that specific region. All relevant medical supplies are taken through to these remote depots and all services are carried out from there.

How you seen a shift in lifestyle choices from drivers, to more healthy options?

We have seen drivers taking their health seriously and quite a few have enquired about healthy food options at the truck stops. Drivers also tend to stop at the centres to request that we check their blood pressure, etc. We have also seen a 43% increase in healthcare-seeking behaviour among industry personnel.

What is some of the retro fitting needed for the mobile vans?

Current vehicles are newly fully equipped, however we always need more counselling and testing gazebos.

How do you ensure that the latest medical advancements and alternative medicines are offered to avoid an over reliance on prescription drugs?

Staff receives training on an annual basis and through education and information provision we can assist drivers to reduce their risk of contracting lifestyle disease.

What have been some of the success stories for the programme, and biggest lesson learned?

One of our biggest milestones was in 2011 when our 22nd roadside wellness centre was successfully opened. Additionally, in 2015 we acquired 5 new Ford Rangers and 2 Mercedes-Benz Vito’s which act as mobile clinics and transport clinic staff and medical supplies.

The biggest lesson that we have learnt is that HIV/AIDS is not a disease that can merely be eradicated. It is an ongoing fight and the public needs to be continuously educated on how to avoid contracting the disease and how to live a healthy lifestyle to ensure that they do not fall victim to HIV/AIDS.

Plans for the next five years?

Implementing a cloud base patient management system, which will allow us to monitor driver’s health. To work closely with the Department of Health to enable us to access various treatment regimes, which will ultimately reduce costs and enable Trucking Wellness to become more sustainable and to expand on the current services offered.

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