Safer, friendlier roads start with me

Safe Trucks.jpgFreight moved via South Africa’s road infrastructure accounts for around 80% of total freight movement – and with Logistics Service Provider (LSP) vehicles being on the road 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the road freight industry plays a key role in improving road safety this festive period, says Abrie de Swardt, Marketing Director of IMPERIAL Logistics, in this month’s SmartProcurement.

With the festive season doing the rounds, road safety tends to once again come under the spotlight. Yet, in the South African context we can ill afford to only concentrate on making our roads safer and friendlier just because we hear Jingle Bells, then take hands and sing Auld Lang Syne.

The death of some 14 000 people annually on our roads – at least 1 000 monthly and no less than 40 daily – are dire numbers. One death is one too many. Every person, every day can improve their behaviour on the road by focusing more actively on safety and tolerance.

Industry commitment

Abrie_deSwardt.jpgRoad freight companies need to do a lot more in terms of road safety. Problems arise where drivers chase time and where companies don’t adhere to giving drivers rest time. Drivers’ health, such as eyesight, must be consistently assessed and treated if required to assure other road users of a rapid reaction in a potential accident situation.

LSPs have some critical contributions to improving safety standards. On-going driver training and self-policing is important. Companies must consciously police their drivers in terms of their driving speed, penalising them for driving over the speed limit. Alcohol consumption levels should also be tested.

Better drivers

Investment in consistent up-skilling of driver skills could make the difference between a reaction that saves or takes a life in the case of a road accident. In addition, from an economic perspective, training can lead to better supply chain efficiencies through factors such as lower fuel consumption and longer use of vehicle parts.

So how do South Africa’s best top drivers perform against the world’s best? This year, two drivers from IMPERIAL Logistics Refrigerated Services represented Team South Africa at the 9th FleetBoard Drivers League or ‘TRUCKERMANIA’, achieving a score of 9,6, just decimals behind Germany and Holland’s winning 9,9.

The 25 finalists from 9 000 drivers from Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Qatar, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and the UK were rated on factors such as preventative driving style, speed change and braking behaviour, all of which counted towards the ‘economical handling of the truck’.

Maintenance matters

OEM specifications, tyre quality as well as vehicle set-up and repairs and maintenance policies play a further critical role in addressing road safety management effectively. New technologies such as Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) and Electronic Stability Programmes (ESP) can contribute significantly to heightened safety of a vehicle.

Comprehensive maintenance is of the utmost importance. Over and above things such as fully functional brakes and lights, road safety is impacted by seemingly small defects.

Consider how dysfunctional dashboard lights could contribute to unsafe driving at night or how the incorrect tyre pressure could impact braking effectiveness. Missing mirrors and mudguards, or seats that are not correctly adjusted all play a role in decreasing the effective reaction of a driver in an emergency stop situation.

I-Pledge campaign

IMPERIAL’s current road safety campaign, known as I-Pledge ( encourages road users to focus on voluntarily changing road-related behaviour. The essence of the campaign is that road safety starts with every person.

For truck drivers, pledges include driving in the slow lane on highways at all times. For every road user, pledges include not sending emails or SMSs, nor updating your BBM or Facebook status while driving. It asks for a commitment not to drink and drive. It reminds us to buckle up, keep to the speed limit and maintain a safe following distance.

If there is one key takeout from I-Pledge for the logistics and supply chain management industry, it is the importance of making road safety a number one commitment. Ultimately, the change to better road user behavior starts with me. It starts with you. It starts with our industry. A simple shift in how we all think and react will make all the difference.

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