Driver trainer Stanley Dlamini shows Wheels why modern trucks are more complex than single-engined aircraft. More on the scary state of SA’s transport on
To defuse our trucking time bomb, industry leaders start with the nut that holds the steering wheel
TO help promote safer roads in SA, Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) has opened its driver training facility at Zwartkops in Pretoria to all commercial vehicle drivers during October, which is Transport Month 2016.
Drivers of any type of truck, bus or van are welcome to apply to be trained free of charge but FleetBoard driver training manager Megenthran Naidoo told Wheels there is space left for about 20 drivers to take part in the two-day training sessions. Naidoo said that well over 200 drivers will be trained to drive defensively free of charge during the sixday work weeks of Transport Month.
Naeem Hassim, head of Fuso Trucks Southern Africa, said MBSA will be using the group’s FleetBoard Professional Driver Training programme to measure the drivers’ progress. “A well-trained and healthy driver is a safer driver. By producing safer drivers through or training, we are fitting in perfectly with the Transport Month’s theme of ‘Together we move South Africa forward’,” said Hassim.
The launch was attended by Patrick “pull-no-punches” O’Leary, editor of Fleetwatch magazine and founder of the Brake and Tyre Watch programme, which has in the past five years randomly checked 679 trucks on SA’s highways.
O’Leary said 68% of all the trucks that were randomly pulled off the road in SA were unsafe to drive, never mind being unroadworthy.
A more shocking statistic, said O’ Leary, is that nine in 10 drivers should not be driving because of their health, eyesight or attitude, and almost half of the drivers tested (43%) had professional driver permits that had long expired.
O’Leary said the sorry state of SA’s transport is rooted in the fact that anybody can become a truck operator in SA. He said the majority of trucks on the road are owned by medium or small fleet operators “where anything goes”, from untrained drivers with fake licenses to trucks with no brakes, all of which add up to the type of crash that left 23 people dead at the bottom of Fields Hill.
“These operators don’t even know or care about their obligations as listed in section 45 of the National Road Traffic Act,” O’Leary said.
Medical ID for drivers
Director of the Road Safety Foundation and founder of Community Medical Services, paramedic Phillip Hull, said he estimates SA’s real annual road death toll to be closer to 25 000 than the official 15 000.
Hull has been working at crash scenes on Van Reenen’s Pass for 34 years and confirmed that inexperienced young drivers, often from Swaziland or Zimbabwe, try to slow their loaded rigs while going down the notorious pass by using the foot brake instead of the engine brake or retarder, with the result that the brakes become so hot that the truck is set alight.
Hull is working on ways for paramedics to identify victims’ medical needs at crash scenes. Hull said all too often, the bodies of drivers who have died on the road lie unidentified at morgues for months.
Tertius Wessels, MD of the Corridor Empowerment Project, said the initiative, which has enjoyed MBSA support since its inception, has saved 6 000 lives of HIV-positive drivers and spouses who are taking ARVs. He said the project, which now has 22 wellness centres and 10 mobile units throughout SA, is working on a cloud-based app on which fleet operators can store drivers’ details.
Better food on the cards
Hull said the salt and sugar-rich diets, linked to the sedentary lifestyles of longdistance drivers in SA, is a lethal health mix, and suggusted driver training should include telling drivers that they will contract type two diabetics if they maintain a diet of pap and vleis, washed down with a litre of Coke on top of no exercise.
Dr Sujen Padayatchi, MD of Aspen Logistics and one of the MBSA’s key customers, told Wheels that his company is testing just-add-water meal packs that will go a long way to provide three balanced meals and snacks for drivers in a day. Padayatchi, who qualified as a medical doctor in England before returning to run the fleet business founded by his father, Radha Padayatchi, said the aim is to provide the meals, snacks and two litres of low-sugar energy drink for about R15 per item, or R75 in total.
“We are still testing the dehydrated packs with our drivers, but already other fleets are asking for it,” he said.
MBSA driver trainer Stanley Dlamini said the sooner fleet operators and drivers realise road safety starts in the cab, the sooner SA’s roads will become safer.
Where to book
To book for MBSA’s complementary driver training, please contact Megenthran Naidoo by sending an e-mail to megenth firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 012 677 1744. Terms and conditions apply.
The heroes who are working hard behind the scenes to help make SA’s truck drivers safer (from left): paramedic Phillip Hull, Aspen fleet MD Sujen Padayatchi, vice president of MBSA group affairs Mayur Bhana, Fleetwatch editor and founder of Brake and Tyre Watch Patrick O’Leary, and Aspen driver trainer Charles Rauch.