As the South African nation does their best to follow lockdown regulations and flatten the COVID-19 curve, there are a number of people who continue to work through this time. Amongst the essential service workers on the road are the drivers delivering essential goods to shops and healthcare workers. Many of these drivers may be working with skeleton staff and under immense pressure.

The managing director of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, says working under these conditions place truck and other fleet drivers at greater risk of fatigued driving. “While studies have not been conducted in South Africa, those from the US tell us that working with skeleton crews results in fatigue that impacts up to 90% of drivers. This should provide impetus for fleet managers to pay more attention to technology and processes that address fatigue while driving.

“The tendency of many South Africans to stockpile items before and at the start of the lockdown meant that drivers had to serve even greater demands by many stores. Easter weekend has also resulted in a surge of shoppers to stock up on items for their weekend plans. All of this place drivers under extra pressure.”

Fleet operators need to ensure they have processes in place to identify fatigued driving. “This can be by using technology such as telematics to identify sudden changes in driver behaviour that could indicate drowsy driving. It can be through driving schedules that adhere to legal requirements and give drivers adequate rest periods irrespective of demand. Encourage drivers to share if they feel that they could be a risk, without fear of financial repercussions. Whatever strategy your company follows to combat fatigued driving, ensure you place great focus on it during these trying times.”

The report from the US also revealed that added stress levels lead to spikes in substance abuse. “As much as 75% of employees are affected by opioid abuse in the US under normal circumstances. Once again, ensure you have the processes in place to ensure that your drivers’ ability is impaired by drugs. Follow these processes without exception, to prevent any costly and potentially tragic consequences.”

Truck and other fleet drivers, tend to be the unsung heroes of lockdown. “They ensure we can feed our families, fill our cars and access important medical supplies. Ensure well-being is prioritised during this time,” says Herbert.