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Supporting essential truck drivers

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AS COVID-19 restrictions continue to impact on the daily lives of South Africans, many of the drivers delivering essential goods to shops and healthcare workers may be working with skeleton staff and under immense pressure.

That’s according to the MasterDrive MD Eugene Herbert, who said 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 also resulted in a surge of shoppers to stock up on items for their weekend plans. All of this place drivers under extra pressure.”

He said fleet operators need to ensure they have processes in place to identify fatigued driving. “This can be by using 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 US report 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 not impaired by drugs and follow these without exception, to prevent costly and potentially tragic consequences.”

Herbert said truck and other fleet drivers tend to be the unsung heroes of COVID-19. “They ensure we can feed our families, fill our cars and access important medical supplies. Ensure well-being is prioritised during this time.”

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