SA roads where everything goes

As you read these words, you have a vehicle parked somewhere, maybe you can even see it from the window you’re sitting next to. Quickly! You have two seconds and one word to describe it. Whatever adjective you choose to describe your vehicle, “dangerous” certainly wasn’t one was it? And that is because it isn’t,it’s because you are!

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September 30, the advent of TRANSPORT MONTH, saw the launch of MBSA’s Fleetboard professional training programme where they are set to train in excess of 200 commercial vehicle drivers as part of their role in operating as a responsible corporate citizen.

With over 360 000 trucks rolling over South African roads daily, the image of diabolical accidents isn’t too far away. Couple that image with well known random facts: unqualified operators; under qualified drivers; inadequate traffic officials and the image instantly converts to a living nightmare.

A recent brake and tyre survey undertaken by Fleetwatch and its publisher, Patrick O’Leary, unveiled that out of 679 trucks that were randomly stopped, 485 had to be taken off the road due to not being roadworthy (that’s a 68% failure), and further proved that only 7% of drivers applying for a driving position are actually suitable for driver training.

In this Fleetboard driver training initiative, which isn’t only aimed at MBSA drivers, but across the OEM board, already “licensed” drivers will be trained to become “professional”.

The driver will thereby become an asset to the company they drive for, as opposed to a liability.

Firstly, they will be trained how to do a 15 minute check of the vehicle before starting a trip. He/she will be made aware of how to check the tyres, licence (discs and plates), and fuel and once in the cab, further checks should be made to ensure the vehicle is ready for the highway.

Apart from knowing when to decrease the engine speed in accordance with the load, a driver also needs to know how to:

  • Apply low engine speed
  • Apply high power wherever possible
  • Keep the tachometer needle in the green zone while driving
  • Not shift unnecessarily but allow the engine to pull
  • Skip gears where possible
  • Split gears where necessary.

Each driver will be armed with the following:

Foresighted driving

  • Drive consistently
  • Avoid unnecessary stops
  • Don’t brake unnecessarily
  • Use economic braking
  • Take advantage of peaks in momentum
  • Take your foot off the gas early enough (before hilltops, motorways, etc.)
  • Keep a safe (3 seconds) travelling distance
  • Merge swiftly into traffic
  • Plan the trip’s route in advance
  • Avoid road issues by being up to date with traffic reports
  • Avoid water-filled lane grooves
  • No “full speed ahead” after an interim stop
  • No gas pulse before switching off the engine
  • Guide the gear lever properly
  • Synchronise by using constant pressure, don’t “poke”
  • “Tap” the range shift, don’t “push”
  • Keep your foot away from the clutch and hand away from the gear.

Professional vehicle handling

  • Regular maintenance and care
  • Daily safety checks before trip
  • Adjust tyre pressure
  • Adjust all wind deflectors properly
  • Fasten the tarp tightly
  • Don’t let the engine warm up at standstill
  • Warm up the engine and power train quickly by driving with a moderate load
  • Switch off the engine when stopping for longer periods of time
  • Don’t heat the cab with the engine idling
  • Report deficiencies early
  • Keep an eye on exhaust gases
  • Let the engine idle for a short while after “speedy” driving.

Once all the boxes have been ticked, there is still a very crucial element that is most definitely not to be overlooked. That is the health of the driver.

Being on the road extensively, sometimes week after week, can cause serious concerns about the driver’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Trucking Wellness, in partnership with MBSA, has no less than 22 Wellness Centres throughout South Africa to assist and council drivers.

Apart from personal hygiene, balanced nutrition and exercise, there are other hidden factors that contribute to the health and wellbeing of the driver, which include:

  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Gender based violence
  • Influenza
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Tuberculosis
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
  • Thrombosis
  • Mental health

Reviewing the above screams out that there is one thing left overlooked ... guess what it is? It’s the cell phone! Despite all efforts under taken by law enforcement, social media and viral videos, drivers (of all vehicles, not just trucks) tend to be “controlled” by the cell phone, which takes their attention off the road while driving.I leave you with the wise words of Dr Sujen Padayatchi of ASPEN Logistics: “Lots of money is spent on up-to-date trucks often forgetting that the most valuable asset is actually the driver”.

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