I remember rather well the focus in medical law on “Informed Consent”. As lecturers we emphasized the importance to medical students of giving the conscious patient all the important information and for him to make an “informed” decision!

So, when it comes to the health and well-being of our truck drivers, how do an insurer, a transport retirement trustee, a truck stop operator or a road safety activist gain more info on how to improve the lives of our truck drivers? We reverse the roles and let our truck drivers provide us with the information to make better-informed decisions on how to assist them.

Therefore, on a cold Tuesday evening of the 8th of May 2019, we sat with more than 20 of these truck drivers at the Highway Junction Truck Stop in Harrismith. Questions were well prepared by Elka du Pisanie from Hollard and interviews were conducted by the very professional Macfarlane Moleli.

What were the topics covered?

Questions covered a wide range of topics – from general driving behaviour to the more health and safety aspects. They included some of the following:

  • Average distances covered
  • Areas that were driven with their best and worst roads
  • Time spent away from the family
  • Major risks and challenges on the roads
  • Vehicle Maintenance
  • Frequency of making rest stops in combating driver fatigue
  • The need for safe and secure rest stop facilities/ truck stops
  • The risks of driver distractions and usage of cellular phones
  • Exercise habits and eating habits – The where what and how?
  • The Impact and threats of crime to these drivers

It is also important to mention that the truck drivers who were interviewed work for different employers drive many different routes and different types of trucks. The one driver was quite proud and adamant that he drives a tanker and is a bit different from the other drivers!

What are the truck drivers telling us?

I believe the nice comfortable setting and way the interviews were conducted resulted in the frankness of responses which were an eye -opener to most of us. As “Outsiders” we often create our own perception as to the challenges our truck drivers face 24/7 – These one-on-one interviews inspired us to try and do more!

Safety and Security

Perhaps one of the most important revelations was the need for safety and security. Either these truck drivers have experienced threats to safety from crime themselves or they know of a colleague who has experienced this.

Challenges include violent protests along routes, hijackings, stone throwing and the theft of cargo, tyres or personal attacks.

One driver stated that the Botswana road is his favourite road – mostly because of the “friendly people”.

When you get to understand the distances they travel and the enormity of the task at hand you also understand the need for safety and security when they do get to take their break from driving!

Rules of the Road

It was good to hear that safety training from fleet managers are having an impact. On several occasions it was quite clear in the response i.e. “That according to company policy this is not allowed” or “In training, we are taught”. This was quite evident in the responses pertaining to the use of cellular phones or the requirement to check on the safety of the tyres when stopping.

Health and Fitness

Proper healthy nutrition remains a challenge. Many of the truck drivers eat at irregular times and often not the healthiest foods. Some make their own food on the truck and vegetables and fruits are often not the most frequently used ingredient. It is also a challenge to remain fit even though one driver confirmed that there are some exercises to do against the truck aside from the normal bit of walking when finding a safe location.

Different Areas and Different Challenges

One of the too frequent challenges faced is that of stray animals, especially at night. This is often found in the North West and Northern Cape and one of the roads mentioned were between Vryburg and Kuruman. Also, rather evident was the different roads and challenges across South Africa with some challenging mountains in often difficult conditions.

Changing Lives

A very interesting part of the interview was listening to the responses when asked what the driver would do if he was to win a prize in the Hollard Highway Heroes Competition. The answers nearly always reflected on the tough economic condition on the desire to assist family members/children with such a life-changing award. Many of these truck drivers get to see family only once a week and some only once a month. They communicate from rest stops via cellular phones and WhatsApp messages with the family they so love!

After the interviews, I shared conversations with both Paul Dangerfield from Hollard as well as Mandla Nkosi, member of the Transport Sector Retirement Fund board of trustees. Both were in agreement that they would like to revisit the recordings of these insightful interviews. There simply is no better way to address underwriting risks and improve the well-being of our truck drivers than listening, gaining information and using this in partnerships to change the lives of our Highway Heroes!

Also view:

Hollard Highway Heroes and Road Safety

All Heroes should have a Chance to Change their Lives

Hollard Highway Heroes recognizes Safe And Responsible Truck Driving

Ctrack to monitor top 50 finalists in the Hollard Highway Heroes truck driver competition