Truck drivers on SA Roads

Fatigue is top safety issue for truck drivers on SA roads

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“Driver fatigue is one of the greatest challenges faced by South Africa’s truck drivers. This is why we are so adamant that our drivers take regular breaks and get the necessary rest when they are on long trips,” says Arnoux Maré, CEO of Innovative Solutions Group TM and Managing Director of subsidiary, Innovative Staffing Solutions, which outsources its 7,500 full time employees to clients in the transport. mining, industrial and security industries.

The business recently invested in a Renault Kerax truck to conduct truck driver training for its own and its clients’ drivers.  “Not only does our on-site truck benefit our clients by significantly reducing downtime for their trucks, but it ensures all drivers are properly trained in safety regulations and provided with measures to guarantee their own and others’ safety on the roads,” adds Maré.

While drivers should only work nine hours a day, six days a week, the Bargaining Council permits them to work a maximum of 30 hours overtime per week. This translates into five additional hours a day.

“Drivers are meant to get the same breaks as any other employee. However, many of them work on a commission basis, which means they tend to push themselves to fit in additional hours. This is a catch-22 situation as the overtime can result in driver fatigue,” cautions Maré. 

He explains that Innovative Staffing Solutions clients all have control rooms with controllers, who each oversee about 40 trucks and their drivers. “Their role is to confirm routes with drivers as well as collection and drop-off points. They also communicate with drivers on a regular basis to check on their wellbeing and levels of fatigue.

“In most instances, if a driver reports feeling fatigued, he or she is instructed to pull off the road when it is safe to do so, and to take a break. This does, however, depend on how many hours the driver has been on the road,” asserts Maré.

Innovative Staffing Solutions compiles industry accident trends for all its clients. “We have noticed that accidents tend to follow a trend: after a period of relative safety when drivers may have become a little complacent, minor accidents start to occur such as knocking the side mirrors of their vehicles. The severity of accidents gradually escalates, becoming bumper bashings and eventually culminating in more serious accidents,” says Maré. 

The more serious accidents serve as a red flag to other drivers and the incidents taper off for a while. “Our strategy is to alert our clients when we become aware of an escalation in accidents so that management can step in and place renewed focus on safety. In addition, we manage our own pool of in-house drivers carefully to ensure safety is constantly top-of-mind,” adds Maré.

To ensure even greater safety, wherever possible, Innovative Staffing Solutions provides staff accommodation – and transport from the depot to the accommodation – to allow drivers who have completed long hauls to rest and recuperate before their next trips. 

Maré says given the importance placed on safety, all Innovative Staffing Solutions clients have on-site driver trainers. “They are expected to provide ongoing training on the latest methodologies and to constantly instil the importance of safety regulations. These trainers will accompany drivers on trips on an ad-hoc basis to observe their driving and make sure they conform to safety and road regulations.” 

In addition, drivers are required to conduct pre-route checks of tyres, brakes, leaks and lights, amongst others. This is in addition to the truck having been through the truck depot for fuel top-ups, tyre checks, mechanical checks and washing. “There is little room for error when a 70-tonne machine has to stop in an emergency. Checking and re-checking is critical,” says Maré. 

Innovative Staffing Solutions believes its investment in the new truck is an important move. “It is aimed at assisting clients in training the drivers they might not be able to get to and providing another level of safety for drivers and, ultimately, all South African road users,” concludes Maré.

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