Because of the number of drivers in South Africa who use our roads with false and illegally obtained driving licences, it has become necessary for truck and bus owners to thoroughly test any new driver who they intend employing
The numerous recent media reports regarding the alarming number of false driving licences issued are frightening – especially when an estimated one in three vehicles on our roads are being driven by drivers who may not have been taught the rules of the road, or how to drive in a safe and proper manner.
According to these reports, it appears to be very easy to obtain a fake licence, provided that you are willing and able to pay a bribe or alleged fee.
False licences are obtainable for all driving licence categories, including extra-heavy commercial vehicle licences and Professional Driving Permits (PrDP). Driving schools appear to be involved in the process, too. (You book a test but never have to get behind the wheel.)
During many years of testing truck drivers, I have encountered a number of drivers who allegedly have a heavy-duty licence and a valid PrDP, but fail dismally in the theoretical and practical road test.
One driver who applied for a truck driving position at a company where I was testing a group of drivers did not have a PrDP. When I told him that without a valid PrDP he was not qualified to drive a truck, he very arrogantly replied that he could obtain a PrDP within a day as he knew the right people.
To assist truck and bus owners and/or operators who do not have their own driving instructor, the list below contains some of the important driving skills and documentation that should be monitored and checked during the theoretical and practical road test.
• Driving licence and PrDP;
• Pre-trip inspection method and documentation;
• Avoiding engine over-revving on a cold-engine start;
• Correct gear selection when starting off (should always select first gear) and when on the road;
• Clutch control;
• Use of mirrors, blind-spot check and signalling;
• Torque management – sweet-spot driving (driving in the green band);
• Avoidance of harsh braking;
• Driver courtesy towards other drivers;
• Keeping to a three-second following distance;
• Reaction when the vehicle behind is too close;
• Compensating for other drivers’ bad habits/mistakes;
• Retardation management – use of exhaust brake and retarders;
• Control/understanding of excessive idling;
• Accident report system;
• Reversing proficiency – especially with a trailer;
• Date of last driver-training course attended;
• Searching for road hazards (every 12 seconds);
• Identifying hazards and type of hazard;
• Deciding what action to take;
• Taking early action to avoid a road hazard;
• Driving according to what the driver can see.
Remember that it is the truck or bus owner’s responsibility to ensure that the person he or she allows to drive the vehicle is properly licensed and competent to do so.