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

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - PHOTO: ALWYN VILJOEN

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.

Scary sko­roko­ros

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 ran.naidoo@daim­ler.com or by phon­ing 012 677 1744. Terms and con­di­tions ap­ply.

PHOTO: ALWYN VILJOEN

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.

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