Following the increase in heavy-vehicle road accidents during the beginning of the 2018 festive season, the Minister of Transport, Blade Nzimande, is calling for truck owners to step up their efforts to reduce truck accidents
Nzimande and the South African road-traffic authorities have also stated that the previous road-safety campaigns have not been as effective as they had hoped they would be. They are therefore endeavouring to find other ways to reduce the unacceptable carnage that we witness daily on our roads.
Many ideas have recently been discussed in the media on how to accomplish the task of reducing road accidents all year round and not only during the festive season.
I support many of these harsh and more punitive ideas, especially the proposal that young truck drivers must first obtain a year’s driving experience in a light motor vehicle before being allowed to drive a heavy commercial vehicle.
My reason for supporting this proposal is that, after more than 50 years of driving and road testing many heavy commercial vehicles, I have learnt that trucks are far less forgiving than light motor vehicles.
One mistake, or loss of concentration for just a few seconds, can be fatal when driving a heavy-duty vehicle. The experience that a young, first-time driver would obtain during the first year of driving a light motor vehicle, that is far more forgiving, would be beneficial in reducing truck accidents.
Truck owners and operators can also assist in reducing the unacceptable number of truck accidents by applying measures and controls that will address the major causes of truck accidents. In my opinion, driver fatigue is the biggest cause of truck accidents in long-distance operations.
Fortunately, there are some very good fatigue-detection devices on the market that monitor movement of the driver’s eyes and body posture and then alert the driver before he or she falls asleep. All operators engaged in long-distance road-freight transport should have these fatigue-detection devices fitted to their vehicles.
Truck operators also need to examine their route scheduling and planning to ensure that the driver has sufficient time to stop and rest during the trip.
Using a cellphone and/or being under the influence of alcohol or drugs while driving should be totally prohibited, especially when operating a heavy vehicle.
Truck operators need to ensure that their trucks and trailers are always kept in a roadworthy condition and are safe to operate. This applies especially to trailers, which are often neglected and serviced only when they break down. In the past, many serious truck accidents have been caused because the trailer brakes were not working.
Lastly, keeping to the speed limit as prescribed in the road traffic regulations should be strictly enforced by the truck owner and/or operator. Driving a truck beyond these set limits drastically reduces the driver’s ability to control his or her vehicle or take evasive action to avoid an accident.
As a professional and respected trucking industry, let’s assist the transport minister in his request to reduce truck-related accidents.