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National survey reveals lack of safety trends in SME road freight sector

AN online survey conducted earlier this year by JC Auditors (JCA) has highlighted a concerning lack of safety systems within the road freight sector of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMMEs). The survey was conducted with the objective of evaluating safety practices and measures in the industry.

Oliver Naidoo, Managing Director of JCA, said key findings from the survey indicated a widespread absence of safety protocols which jeopardises the well-being of both heavy vehicle drivers and public road users. “It also has a significant economic impact, considering that the last Road Traffic Management Corporation report indicated the cost of crashes to be R142 billion or 3,4% of GDP.”

The survey, conducted with SME road freight companies from across the country, revealed the following trends:

Poor Compliance with Regulations: The findings revealed a concerning lack of compliance with the relevant requirements of the National Road Traffic Act and other industry standards, with 64% of participating companies lacking proper compliance measures.

Insufficient Vehicle Maintenance: It found 68% of SMME road freight companies had inadequate vehicle maintenance programmes. This increases the risk of mechanical failures, leading to accidents and disruptions in supply chains.

Safe Loading: The survey found 87% of companies did not actively monitor their compliance with the legal mass limits outlined in the Road Traffic Act.

Inadequate Safety Training: Some 72% of respondents reported insufficient driver training. This heightens the risk of accidents and undermines the overall safety culture on the roads. While formal driver training is crucial, it is just one element in fostering a safe driving culture. Driver monitoring, coaching, and visible management commitment are also vital.

Driver Medical Fitness: Around 78% of companies indicated drivers were not assessed for medical fitness annually, and 92% of companies were unaware of whether any of their drivers had chronic illnesses.

Naidoo expressed concern on the findings, calling for collaboration among industry stakeholders, regulatory bodies, and government authorities to address the deficiencies within the SME road freight sector.

He said the findings provide the sector with “a chance to enhance the safety culture within SMEs and implement robust systems that foster a safe operating environment.”

He recommended the following measures: Developing a robust safety policy; conducting comprehensive risk assessments; enhancing driver selection and training; implementing driver monitoring systems; ensuring vehicle maintenance; as well as promoting a safety culture, providing personal protective equipment (PPE), and encouraging the reporting and investigation of safety incidents.

Those involved in the sector should also engage in continuous improvement through regularly analysing safety performance data and stay up to date with regulations and industry standards.

Naidoo said the implementation of these steps can lead to substantial improvements in safety performance, risk mitigation, and employee well-being.

“The Road Transport Management System (RTMS) serves as an excellent tool to facilitate the implementation of these measures, promoting both transport safety and business sustainability,” said Naidoo.  

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