The SAPPI Safe Transport Empowerment Programme (STEP), an initiative launched with JC Auditors, will be available 100% online in 2022.

This will significantly extend the reach of the programme that is part of SAPPI’s enterprise development work, aimed at equipping and resourcing small and medium-sized (SME) transporters with the tools to build safe and sustainable businesses.

More than 20 transporters have completed the programme, while another 12 micro- transporters are currently busy with the course that to date has been implemented in a blended format, with both virtual/online workshops and face-to-face engagements.

“The online workshops were necessitated by COVID-19 protocols, but gave rise to the current project of hosting the course in a 100% online, on-demand platform, launching in the first quarter of 2022,” says Oliver Naidoo, JC Auditors Managing Director. “This will make the programme far more accessible to small transporters who will be able to participate remotely and on-demand, an important development considering how difficult it can be to find time during a typical workday to get away from transport operations, especially for small transporters who play multiple roles.”

JC Auditors have conducted more than 5 000 audits over the past 15 years, allowing them intimate insight and understanding of the micro and small transport sector.

Naidoo, who recently facilitated a STEP workshop in KwaZulu-Natal, heralds the programme as essential for improving safety in the small and micro transport industry.

“From our experience, we have seen that this segment of the market often gets into the transport business, but does not always have the knowledge and exposure to key technical, operational and safety requirements.” The STEP programme was initiated to bridge this gap and create a platform for new entrants, SME transporters, to enter the market with the fundamental safety processes in place.

The programme is typically six to eight months in duration – depending on the number of delegates and the spread of their facilities. The content of the programme is packaged practically, with a strong focus on correlating safety with sustainability.

Subjects covered include vehicle/fleet registration control, transportation risk assessments, safe loading, speed management, economical driving, driver fitness and business management.

“Delegates are encouraged to actively participate and apply the principles being taught in their businesses,” says Naidoo. “Delegates interest is especially sparked during the session on fuel-saving, where the course illustrates the direct fuel consumption impact of harsh acceleration, high speed, tyre inflation pressure, load profile and preventative maintenance.”

In addition to the fuel impact, the other negative cost and safety impacts are also discussed at length.

The course delves into all of the content in an in-depth manner, emphasising the practical safety and cost benefits of implementing safety systems within the SME transporters’ businesses.

According to Naidoo, various interventions take place during the programme – starting with an introductory STEP workshop and an outline of the programme. “We assist transporters with STEP toolkit development, and initial implementation assessment, identifying key risks, mentorship and knowledge transfer, remote support and final assessments and the way forward.”