Costly unnecessary accidents

In these tough economic times long distance road transport operators can no longer afford to have their vehicles off the road due to unnecessary accidents.

On a recent road trip to KwaZulu-Natal using the N3 route I was amazed to see a number of extra-heavy duty vehicles that were overturned at the side of the road. Judging by the little damage that these vehicles had sustained it appeared that the driver had fallen asleep and the vehicle had then slowly left the road and gently fallen over.

Analysis of the vehicle standing costs involved when a large vehicle is involved in an unnecessary accident shows that operators can no longer afford these costs while the vehicle and trailer are being repaired.

Taking the average down-time for a vehicle to be repaired of three weeks, means the vehicle will be off the road for 20 working days. The estimated fixed or standing cost of a new extra-heavy duty seven-axle rig is about R2 400 per day. The fixed costs that have to be paid while the vehicle is being repaired include monthly payment to the bank; monthly insurance premium; driver and crew wages; and licence and registration costs.

At R2 400 a day multiplied by an average of 20 working days brings the total standing cost to R48 000.

These vehicle standing costs do not include the other costs that are incurred as a result of the accident. These could include insurance excess payments; vehicle recovery; driver and crew medical costs including, perhaps, hospitalisation; plus the use of another vehicle to transport the goods while the damaged vehicle is being repaired.

The causes of these unnecessary vehicle accidents are inferior driver skills and attitude plus the company’s policy on driving hours.

To reduce the risk of these types of accidents, road transport companies should carefully examine the driving skill and attitude of any new driver that they are in the process of employing, by thoroughly testing his or her driving skills in the yard and on the road with a fully loaded vehicle.

If necessary, additional driver training should be given to the driver before he is allowed to drive any company vehicle, and especially if the driver has never driven the make and model of the truck that he or she will be employed to drive.

With all the new electronic equipment that is fitted to the latest trucks being sold on the South African market, companies should make it compulsory that any driver converting to a new vehicle undergoes a conversion training course. This should go a long way to ensure the driver can operate the vehicle in a safe and professional manner.

It is essential to check that the prospective driver’s licence and professional driving permit are valid. Copies of the driving licence and a photograph of the driver should be placed in the driver’s file.

Presently there is no road traffic legislation governing maximum driving hours, but transport companies should examine their own policy regarding maximum daily driving hours and compulsory rest periods.

If necessary adjust the company’s policy on driving hours to eliminate the period between 23:00 and 05:00 as it is in this period that drivers often fall asleep. The company should also ensure the driver is able to have sufficient rest during a 24-hour cycle.


One of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, VIC OLIVER has been in this industry for 45 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel, 11 years with Busaf and seven years with International.

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