(Updated: 8 March 2023)
Transportation is a key component of the supply chain in South Africa and around the globe. Therefore, it is essential for companies to ensure that drivers and vehicles operate safely on the road. With an alarming increase in the number of road accidents and hijackings affecting business operations and the lives of drivers, having the right safety process in place can not only save lives, but also minimize operational costs.
Whether you are a business owner, fleet manager, or cargo driver, these tips can help improve your fleets’ safety, reduce costs, and enhance your business operations. Let’s take a deep dive into these top 10 tips on how cargo drivers can stay safe on the road:
1. Secure your cargo before hitting the road
Having an improperly secured load can pose a major hazard to the driver, vehicle, and fellow motorists whilst on the road by potentially causing the vehicle to jackknife, roll over, or otherwise lose control should the load shift drastically during transport.
Fleet managers can prevent cargo from shifting, falling, or breaking during transport by educating cargo drivers of the importance of correctly following the loading and load securement procedures. Fleet managers should also emphasise the necessity of load containment, such as locking cargo doors before leaving the lot and locking cab doors to prevent unauthorized access to the vehicle.
By regularly practising cargo security, drivers can help mitigate the risk of cargo loss or theft that may occur during long-distance travel.
2. Regulate vehicle inspection and manage vehicle maintenance
Hearing of a truck being involved in an accident or having broken down is not new news. Yet, this is typically broadcasted on the radio at least several times a day due to poor maintenance and inspections of the commercial vehicle by the driver and the fleet managers.
By practising regular maintenance checks on your fleet, you can identify and fix minor mechanical problems before they become more costly. These maintenance checks should include checking tyre pressure, brakes, lights, and other systems to ensure they are functioning correctly, thus helping to ensure the vehicle is operating safely and efficiently.
Keeping vehicles in good working order, transporters and their drivers can reduce the risk of breakdowns and accidents on the road.
3. Map out the way forward
Planning your trip in advance can help you improve your personal and vehicle safety dramatically, as you will be able to identify potential hot zones and other road hazards that may negatively impact your journey such as:
- High crime areas – With the increase in cargo theft, looting, and hijackings, it is important that you plan your stops carefully. This may include avoiding areas known to be hot spots for crime, poorly lit areas if travelling at night, and do not stop in unsecured parking bays. You can also liaise regularly with your tracking and response company to get updates on crime hotspots.
- Heavily congested areas – Be aware of sections of your route where traffic congestion is quite common. High traffic congestion opens the driver up to multiple potential hazards such as increased odds for an accident, hijacking, pilferage. Be ready to slow down and alert of your surroundings and try to plan alternative routes in advance.
- Restricted routes – There are certain roads where trucks have restricted access due to low clearance bridges, low weight limit bridges, narrow roads, low-hanging cables etc. Knowing where these restricted routes are will help you better plan ahead.Having a fleet tracking solution in place may be beneficial in the planning of your trip, as you and your fleet manager will be able to add geo-fences, plot the route on GPS, schedule tops, and set up security alerts etc.
4. Track your fleet with GPS tracking software
Fleet management systems have drastically improved over the years to help fleet managers optimize fleet safety, improve productivity, and reduce risk. For instance, fleet tracking units can be installed to help monitor fleet movements, set up geo-fences, and contain emergency alerts for drivers. Video monitoring cameras can help monitor their vehicles in real-time and help identify safety issues such as unauthorized vehicle activity, poor driving behaviour, and can act as audiovisual evidence in the event of an accident.
5.Take care of yourself on the road
Driver fatigue is a hazard, not only to other vehicles on the road but also for the driver. When a driver is suffering from fatigue, their situational awareness is lowered which can result in reduced reaction time to traffic congestion, obstructions on the road, or even to threats such as a hijacking.Regular breaks can help revitalize a drivers’ ability to remain alert and focused, thus reducing the risk of an accident. During the break, a driver should be encouraged to stretch their legs, get some fresh air, get something to eat or even take a nap. Fleet managers can incorporate these breaks into the trip schedule and even plot out assigned stop areas for the driver to use.
Drivers should also be required to wear seat belts whilst always driving on the road. Seal belts are essential for protecting the driver and passengers in the event of an accident.
6. Teach your drivers about defensive driving
With a yearly increase in fatal accidents involving trucks on South African roads, the need to train drivers on the topic of defensive driving has never been more important. This proactive and preventative approach gives drivers the necessary training to anticipate, recognize and respond to dangerous driving conditions such as sudden stops, sudden lane changes, and road hazards.
This form of training can help drivers avoid potential accidents, or reduce the severity of an accident if unavoidable, and can improve overall driver safety. Here are a few additional tips drivers should be aware of:
- Be aware and frequently monitor your blind spots
- Always maintain a safe following distance from other vehicles on the road
- In an emergency try and remain calm and collected
7. Know the rules of the road
This may seem like an obvious one, however, drivers should be encouraged to be aware of and regularly practice safe driving etiquette. This includes keeping a safe following distance, using proper signaling when turning or changing lanes, adhering to the speed limit, and understanding the meaning of road signs. By practicing and promoting these safe driving habits, transporters can improve overall road safety, reduce the risk of accidents, and improve productivity.
8. Enforce a zero-tolerance policy for drug and alcohol use
Similarly to driver fatigue, drug and alcohol use poses a serious hazard to the driver and other motorists on the road as it impairs the drivers cognitive abilities. Fleet managers should have a zero-tolerance policy in place to prevent this kind of behaviour in the workforce. This policy should be written or reviewed by a legal representative and abide by South Africa’s employment act, but should specify the consequences for drug and alcohol use whilst on duty.It is also recommended that fleet managers make support or help resources available to drivers or employees in general who may be trying to overcome substance abuse issues.
9. Always keep communication open with your fleet manager
Fleet management systems do help facilitate open communication between a driver and the control room. However, drivers should always practice open communication with the control room in the event of unscheduled stops, potential road hazards, vehicle maintenance issues, route deviation, accidents, location, and threats (such as hijackings).This way, not only will you as the driver feel safer, but in the case that something does happen, help will get to you sooner.
10. Avoid distractions when on the road
It’s very easy to get distracted these days, whether you’re looking at your phone, watching cars passing by, or noticing a new billboard ad on the side of the highway. However, when you are transporting cargo in a large heavy vehicle, distractions can be devastating. This is why fleet managers should educate drivers on the consequences of distracted driving and promote the safe driving procedures they have in place.
Driving on South African roads can be an absolute nightmare for any driver, but with these safety tips, we are hoping that fleet managers and drivers can take the necessary steps to ensure they are constantly practicing and improving their driver’s safety procedures.
If you are a fleet manager looking for technological solutions to help optimize your fleet and drivers’ safety, then contact Landmark Tracking today and find out more about how our fleet management solutions can help you.