Driver of the Year initiative contributes to skills development, safety and cost saving within the transport industry

The South African economy relies heavily on the transport industry to enable growth and satisfy national demand for goods, with approximately 80% of all freight transported done so on our national roads. Locally, there is a long tradition of road transportation, with the industry providing more than 500 000 jobs and contributing around 9% to the local GDP. This sector is not only vital to the economy, but as its vehicles interact with the public on a daily basis, the need for skilled and safe drivers is an imperative in ensuring road safety for all.

According to Blake Ferguson, Chief Operations Officer, Transport at supply chain specialist Barloworld Logistics, despite the continuing demand for transport services a chronic national shortage of skilled professional drivers can hamper the industry’s ability to fulfil client needs. He further explains that players within the industry have a responsibility to continuously focus on providing employees with the opportunities, and incentives, to develop skills in order to foster pride in their chosen profession. Initiatives aimed at skills development not only go a long way in closing the skills gap, but act as a retention mechanism in an industry competing for talent.

“Our Transport division understands that we not only have a responsibility to deliver clients loads, but a far greater one of keeping road users safe, as well as providing the opportunity for skills development for every person that gets behind the wheel of one of our trucks. Our strict selection and performance criteria’s mean that only seven out of every hundred applicants makes it through our initial screening process.,” says Ferguson. “Skilled drivers are the very backbone of our business, ensuring we provide excellent service delivery and furthermore, unlocking real savings in terms of lower maintenance costs, decreased fuel consumption and carbon footprint.”

It was out of this understanding of the local landscape that the organisation’s Driver of the Year initiative was born. The initiative is aimed at improving overall performance scores of driver teams across a variety of critical metrics, all intended to deliver enhanced road safety and develop the skill of each driver to a professional level.

James McKenzie, Executive Human Resources in Barloworld Logistics’ Transport division, explains that far beyond a single annual recognition, the Driver of the Year programme uses a range of objective data sources and technologies to continually measure and monitor key performance criteria throughout the year. Tools such as DriveSmart™and DriveCam™ together with fuel consumption, annual training scores, medical attendance and the disciplinary records of each driver complement the programme by giving feedback regarding both on-road performance and behavioural competence. This array of data is collated into monthly scorecards for each of the approximately 1800 drivers, allowing for continuous improvement and adjustments.

“This year we saw an improvement in key metrics across the board from driver behaviour to a decrease in minor incidents on the road”, says McKenzie. “Scorecards are structured and weighted in accordance with the risk and behavioural objectives of the business, and thanks to the measuring of both hard and soft metrics, our ultimate champions are not just safe drivers on the road, but well rounded, consummate achievers.”

He further explains that the success of the programme is strongly reflected in the improvement in skills and pride with which the drivers fulfil their daily duties. A beacon within the programme is the participation of female drivers from a parallel initiative within the organisation aimed at skilling female drivers. There is an annual shortage of approximately 15 000 qualified drivers and by opening the profession to a non-traditional gender, Barloworld Logistics’ transport division is not only making headway towards shrinking the skills gap but contributing significantly to diversity and inclusion within the industry.

Now within its second year, the Driver of the Year 2017 finale was hosted on 9 November 2017 at Zwartkops Raceway. The top 3% of the organisation’s drivers, selected to participate through their metrics during the year, faced off in a display of consummate skill during the various challenges. The winner, Dumile Baliwe held off stiff competition to claim the accolade, and in doing so was not only awarded the prestigious title of Driver of the Year, but received a substantial voucher to be used in the purchase of a vehicle. Second runner-up, Simon Nyandeni, and third runner-up, Joseph Ngwane, were also rewarded for their winning efforts sharing in the total prize valued at R225 000.

“Our Driver of the Year programme has made a remarkable difference in the lives of our employees”, states McKenzie. “Our drivers are professional, and arguably the safest on the road. Our insurances statistics are far ahead of the market norm, our road accident incidents have decreased, and our costs have been impacted positively thanks to improved road performance.”

Barloworld Logistics is a business of people, who interact daily with each other and the general public. Everyone has the right to get home at the end of the day, and thanks in part to our Driver of the Year initiative, upholding this right to safety is a cornerstone of our business.