The Mercury

MBSA helps trucking clinics extend reach

- Roy Cokayne

TRUCKING Wellness, a collaborat­ive project launched 13 years ago to tackle the threat of HIV/Aids in the trucking and logistics sector, has received a boost with the supply of a further 10 custom-fitted mobile clinics.

The mobile clinic vans, which will help to expand the reach of the project, were supplied by Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA).

Trevor Short, the chairman of the National Bargaining Council for the Freight and Logistics Industry, said on Friday that about 80 percent of all goods in South Africa were transporte­d by road and the loss of key employees due to HIV/Aids posed a serious threat to the industry and economy.

He said the council’s vision for the wellness programme was to curb the scourge of HIV/Aids from ravaging the industry and its employees.

“Although we have made an impact in combating the spread of HIV/Aids through the Trucking Wellness initiative, this pandemic threaten the sustainabi­lity and the resilience of the road transport industry in South Africa,” he said.

Kobus van Zyl, MBSA’s vicepresid­ent for commercial vehicles, said a crippled road freight industry would bring the economy to a grinding halt.

This was one of the reasons MBSA had contracted with Trucking Wellness and provided R3.58 million in funding over three years through the SA Business Coalition on HIV and Aids (Sabcoha) to operate and expand the programme.

“Imagine the impact on our economy if the spread of this disease was left unchecked in the trucking industry? Truck drivers in their thousands transport goods between suppliers and consumers to secondary manufactur­ers daily.”

Van Zyl said there were an estimated 70 000 drivers on the country’s roads, every single product had exposure to a truck and the industry could not afford to lose its qualified drivers.

He said the latest Manpower Talent Shortage Survey showed drivers were this year the most scarce manpower resource compared with ninth position last year.

The Swedish Internatio­nal Developmen­t Co-operation Agency has been a partner and co-funder of Trucking Wellness since 2005.

Peter Tejler, the Swedish ambassador to South Africa, said Sweden looked at HIV/Aids as a developmen­tal challenge rather than an isolated health issue.

“The policy contribute­s to the core objective of our internatio­nal developmen­t efforts – to create opportunit­ies through economic growth that will enable poor people to improve their conditions of life,” he said.

Brad Mears, the chief executive of Sabcoha, said the road freight industry still had the highest HIV/Aids infection rate despite the effectiven­ess of the Trucking Wellness programme in reducing infection rates.

Mears said the programme should be extended to other industries, such as the petroleum industry, where people at petrol stations worked late at night. The “final frontier” was to take the programme beyond South Africa’s borders, starting first with Southern African Developmen­t Community (SADC) countries.

Sabcoha hoped

to

“get something like this on the ground” within the next 12 months, Mears said.

Mears said HIV/Aids put neighbouri­ng countries under a lot of pressure because they were “picking up the backhand of what is produced in South Africa”.

“HIV/Aids, unlike us, does not carry a passport.”

Short said the first Roadside Wellness Centre was establishe­d in 2000 and another 20 had been introduced since then, which had been boosted by 15 mobile units, including the 10 new units.

The mobile centres operate largely in South Africa and offer free HIV/Aids awareness education, primary health care, screening for sexually transmitte­d infections and tuberculos­is, condom distributi­on and voluntary counsellin­g and testing to industry employees.

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