Most commodities are transported in South Africa using trucks. To keep our economy moving, it’s imperative to keep the trucks rolling – and that’s where insurance comes into its own.

“When goods are landed at the ports, they are distributed throughout South Africa mostly through our trucking network,” says Wayne Rautenbach, Head of Trucking for Hollard Insure.

“The trucking industry is both massive, and massively important to the South African economy. Everything we wear, eat and drive relies on trucks to get from the manufacturer to the shop, and to the consumer. Without the trucking industry, I think it would be safe to say that our economy would collapse.”

But the trucking industry faces many key challenges, Rautenbach adds.

“We all know how our diesel and fuel prices fluctuate, and I think our diesel prices are currently the highest they’ve ever been. And from what we hear, these diesel prices are going to be going up and could be at almost R25 a litre soon. So that’s the one aspect that makes it so challenging,” he says.

Another challenge is the state of South Africa’s roads; while longer routes such as the N1 and N3 are in reasonable order, generally, our roads are not in great condition.

Further, the instability of the rand makes the cost of vehicles and parts, which are mostly imported, fluctuate – and costs obviously go up more than they come down. Another challenge was the civil unrest of 2021, which had a massive, massive impact on the trucking industry and from which some fleets did not recover.

Rautenbach continues to say that it’s an industry that’s thriving because it’s essential, and we don’t really have other options.

“Us as insurers really have a responsibility to make sure that the industry actually gets insurance cover that helps truck owners when they need it, getting them up and running as soon as possible.”

While it is sad that there are perceptions out there that insurers just repudiate claims, last year’s unrest and the more recent flooding in KwaZulu-Natal should prove to the public out there that insurers do, in fact, pay claims. Similarly, when the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed in 2020, Hollard was one of the first insurers to offer premium relief.

“So we’re trying to change perceptions,” says Rautenbach “but any fleet owner who has suffered a big loss and was properly covered will tell you that insurance companies are there for the good of everybody.”

“Anything on a truck is insurable,” says Rautenbach, whose advice to fleet owners is to speak to their broker about available insurance covers and price.

“The good news for the trucking industry out there is that the heavy commercial vehicle portion of the trucking insurance industry is the most competitive it’s ever been,” Rautenbach states, which translates to affordable covers being available. Cover is crucial, particularly if the vehicles are still on HP agreement.

And insurers pay out substantial sums in claims, as trucks are expensive. Hollard, in the past two years, had average claims payouts of R300-million per year for repairs and vehicle write-offs. “We definitely are replacing trucks and fixing trucks,” he says.

The upshot is that we’ve got a lot more creative about risk management, by partnering with fleet owners to improve risk ensuring that owner and driver also win.

A key element in risk reduction revolves around the use of telematics, which gathers information around parameters such as speeding and harsh braking. Hollard Trucking pertinently uses telematics in a positive way, encouraging better driving and using data for its driver rewards card programme, rather than penalising clients when their drivers commit infractions.

“Any heavy commercial vehicle insurer would require a fleet owner to have telematics. A really integral part of insurance and logistics is telematics and the information that we can get from telematics. For instance, it can alert us to hijacking or when the vehicle is off its normal route,” says Rautenbach.

“Telematics is a very positive aspect of the business.”

“My advice to fleet owners is, don’t chase price,” Rautenbach says. “You should be looking for a good deal, but choose a broker or insurance adviser who has experience in trucking fleets – and make sure that that broker or that adviser does, in fact, have relationships with all the major players so they can put forward the best options to match your business with an insurance company that is best suited to do so.”

He further advice for fleet owners is to ask the broker which insurers they deal with, and why, and for the names of other fleets they insure; and to ask the hard questions up front in order to avoid pain later.

And finally, he counsels fleet owners to encourage safe driving, as many of us use the roads and most especially to take care of their drivers.

“Look after the person looking after your asset on the road. And know your drivers.”