The N3 hell run is emblematic of a culture and policing failure
By Arend du Preez, MD of Crossroads

A recent press article in a national news portal again highlighted the problems caused by poor driving by truckers on the N3. The author called it a hell run and pointed out that, while other road users are also at fault, truckers are a significant problem on that stretch of freeway.

The author notes many incidences of bad driving from a variety of road users. Tailgating, dangerous overtaking, speeding, weaving, weaving on solid lines, slow trucks three abreast, and failure to indicate.

They’re all symptomatic of problem almost epidemic to South Africa: poor policing and a culture of bad driving.

Policing is one part of the problem and not just by the relevant road authorities.

Referring to telematics and other technologies that help fleet operators monitor vehicles and drivers, the author asks, “Please will truck owners ensure their drivers behave?”

It’s a fair point. We have the usual telematics that most people know about and we use sophisticated back-end IT platforms to help us analyse and report on it. It’s standard fare to tell whether a driver is braking harshly, tailgating, weaving heavily, drowsy or falling asleep, or any of many other potential problems.

They also conduct all the training that’s required by law and even some that’s not. They have regular evaluation programmes, insist on processes governing every single trip by every single driver. We’re ISO-certified, enforce 10-minute rest periods every two hours and 30-minute sleep breaks every four hours, don’t allow driving between 23:00pm and 04:00am because that’s a high-risk period. That policy has a huge impact on revenues but is absolutely necessary. We conduct behavioural training, health training that helps drivers with diabetes understand fatigue and how to manage it properly, for example. We’re accredited by the Transport Education Training Authority (TETA). We have a scrupulous SHEQ team. We’re aligned with international standards and aligned with those in the oil industry, which are among the most rigorous worldwide, and our drivers are trained to drive dangerous goods.

About 80% of the trucking companies do a lot of what we do because they’re responsible – because they’re businesses mature enough to understand that it’s actually bad business to not do those things.

But the problem on the N3 is that there are too many trucks. We fully support the road-to-rail policy, which requires beefed up rail infrastructure and rolling stock. And the ones driving badly are operated by those companies or people who don’t do what the majority of the industry is doing to make it safer.

The second major part of the problem is the culture South Africans have developed around driving. We tend to disobey or, at best, disregard the law. People routinely speed. You can’t do the maximum limit on a freeway in Gauteng in rush hour traffic without holding everyone up. I even moved one lane over on the weekend at the speed limit and was still holding cars up. People frequently jump through intersections with stop signs in my neighbourhood to the point where those following become irritated if you actually stop. And it’s no longer just the youngsters who use their phones while driving. Although, it was with mixed emotions that I recently witnessed a driver bring the vehicle to a stop before using the phone. The driver was unfortunately still in the centre of the lane on a busy Gauteng road.

That’s why behavioural training is so crucial. We have to teach, educate, train, coach, mentor, and lead by example how to drive responsibly. We have a policy in the company that anyone caught using their mobile phone while driving can be instantly dismissed. That’s not just for drivers. The same rule applies to directors, managers, administration personnel and all employees. It’s fair and the only way to remind our people that there’s a better way.

Truck drivers are highly visible, particularly when they drive poorly. Other road users in and on smaller vehicles threaten us less and move along quicker. There is, however, a pervasive need to improve our culture around driving, respect for other road users, our responsibilities in operating vehicles of any type, and respect for law.

Do we need truck-specific lanes? I don’t think so. As the author of the hell run article pointed out, she witnessed trucks weaving across solid lines down Town Hill. Better policing by authorities and truck operators will help. Education and shifting the cultural norms will, too.

About Crossroads Distribution:

crossroads, a subsidiary of Community Investment Holdings (CIH), is a diversified domestics and regional services group with associated capabilities internationally, owning an impressive blue chip customer base in its sector.It is a key role-player in the logistics and supply chain management environment in Southern Africa with an associated footprint in Europe. The business employs roughly 900 people, owns more than 380 vehicles, and has access to superior subcontractor vehicles and retains its own warehouses. crossroads’ strategy combines the best available skills and supply chain management specialists and, where necessary, best in breed IT systems that enable it to provide customers with the most efficient and cost-effective logistics and supply chain management solutions available. Crossroads is Dekra-certified for ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001, and is also SQAS-accredited. These qualities have seen the business quietly and consistently maintain robust partnerships with South Africa’s biggest and most successful organisations, such as Total, South African Post Office (SAPO), Xstrata, Hulamin, Air Liquide, Anglo Platinum, Distell, Kumba Iron Ore, and many others for the past nearly 100 years.

The N3 hell run is emblematic of a culture and policing failure.
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