Highway Heroes and Road Safety
It is near impossible to imagine a world without trucks. The trucking industry keeps our economy on the move with our truck drivers navigating their large vehicles, sharing roads with an often less responsible motoring public.
On the Arrive Alive website, we emphasize the importance for all road users to share roads with kindness and courtesy to each other.
Many of us are aware only of the challenges we face in our own vehicles in our short daily commute to work, gym, school or other destinations.
Few are aware of the challenges faced by truck drivers driving 24/7 across our vast road network of 750,000km, delivering the commodities we need daily.
We believe that an informed road user is a safer road user. A better understanding of our mutual challenges will allow us to adjust our driving, reduce risk and make roads safer. By recognizing those who "go the extra mile" for safe driving we could also motivate others towards safer road behaviour.
Recognizing and incentivizing safe truck driving
The Highway Heroes Initiative not only recognizes some of the best truckers on our roads but also contributes to the safer sharing of roads in South Africa. Highway Heroes has inspired significant improvement in drivers’ behaviour and service across the board.
Higher motivation levels and improved spirit have in turn led to better business outcomes for employers who also report substantial fuel, tyre and maintenance cost savings thanks to improved driving. Highway Heroes promotes greater safety on our roads, which impacts every driver and passenger in South Africa
Mtembu (34), a truck driver for Sasolburg-based Elite Dynamics, recently beat out 890 others to be named South Africa’s best trucker as the winner of the third annual Regent Highway Heroes competition. He had to face stiff competition, he says.
“It means a lot - I’m very excited,” he says. “It’s not an easy one.”
As the 2017 winner, Mtembu takes home cash and other prizes to the value of R75 000. The runner-up, Philani Khwela of BR Khoza Carriers, won cash and prizes worth R40 000 and the second runner-up, Pregasen Govender of Sunshine Bakery, won cash and prizes worth R20 000.
We decided to approach Hollard to gain further insights about this initiative and how it is making our roads safer!
How did it all start and what was the vision in creating this Initiative?
A decade ago in 2008, we decided that traditional underwriting was not enough to improve our risk pool and produce the results we wanted. We sourced some of the best driver trainers in the country and encouraged our clients who had claim frequency problems to have their driver assessed and trained.
This proved very successful and Regent then decided to offer the driver assessments and training for free to our clients. The driver trainers would report back saying that there were some incredible drivers out there making a big difference to the industry and the economy. The Highway Heroes idea was born from there. It was to become both a campaign and a competition.
The campaign is where Regent highlighted the many challenges drivers face on a day-to-day basis and how important they are to the South African economy. The campaign aims to be a credible mouthpiece for drivers and to change the public perception, that truck drivers are mainly responsible for the carnage on our roads.
The competition side is for all Regent insured’s who wish to enter their drivers. They are measured using telematics over a period of time using strict criteria. We’ve had 3 very successful years and our current champion is Phillip Mtembu of Elite Dynamics in Sasolburg
For how long has Hollard been active in the Trucking Industry?
Regent for over two decades and Hollard through Etana for over a decade. We have merged into Hollard Trucking now!
What are the criteria to enter the Highway Heroes initiative?
- All Regent/Hollard insured clients are eligible to enter their drivers.
- All entered drivers’ vehicles must be fitted with a mid-level Fleet Management System.
How are the contestants entered in the competition and what are the cornerstones of the evaluation to ultimately decide on a winner?
Fleet owners can enter their drivers manually on a printed entry form or online on the Hollard web portal.
The criteria for the Highway Heroes initiative is maturing every year as the competition complexity increases and therefore the criteria also adapt to the market expectation. Below is an indication of what the criteria were for 2017. This will be updated for the 2018 launch with more categories and stricter parameters to ensure optimal fairness to all the various transport categories.
Highway Heroes Campaign Details:
Entries open from 1 May - 31 July 2018
All prequalifying drivers will be monitored from the 1st of May to the 31st of July 2018.
- Speeding - Any speeding event over 80 km/h for longer than 15 seconds.
- Harsh Breaking - Any registered harsh braking event.
- Fatigue Driving Day - Any distance travelled over 300km or 4 hours without stopping.
- Fatigue Driving Night - Any distance travelled over 150km or 2 hours without stopping.
- Total Kilometres Travelled
The top 30 finalists will be chosen based on the above criteria after which the fitment of standardized tracking devices will commence on the specified vehicles. Tags will be provided in the case that there are two drivers per vehicle. However, it is critical that the finalist remains on one vehicle for the 45-day monitoring phase. (1 September to 15 October 2018)
- 45-day monitoring of top 30 finalists - 1 September (On the same parameters with identical units)
- 4 main categories
- Combination Loads
- Winner, runner-up and second runner-up announced (November) at HH event. (More prizes to be announced at the launch)
To what extent do you use vehicle tracking technology?
To its maximum extent, we rely heavily on state of the art tracking technology to ensure that we accurately track and monitor the driver’s behaviour.
How important do you believe this recognition could be to the self-esteem of our truckers?
I believe it is of utmost importance. After the HH winner announcement ceremony in 2017, the second runner-up approached the owner of his employer for permission to host a braai for his fellow drivers. This driver insisted that he would like to use his own winnings to fund the braai. A wonderful example of Ubuntu. He was extremely proud of his achievements and I believe that this rubbed off on his fellow drivers.
I also think that Themba Vilakazi is a prime example of how his self-esteem improved after winning the first HH title by earning another spot in the top 10 finalists in 2017.
Do you believe the public has an understanding and an appreciation for the work of our truckers and could this platform be used to increase that awareness?
No, I do not believe so. Not all truck drivers are bad and yet there are a few companies out there that tarnish the trucking industry name. Needless to say, it is also the owner and the driver’s responsibility to keep SA roads safe.
This platform is increasing public awareness; It is eye-opening once you realise what these drivers have to go through on a daily basis i.e. hijacking risks, health risks, injury etc. I do believe that more air time (radio, tv) can further increase the impact of the campaign.
How has the feedback been from the trucking owners and the drivers?
Mostly good, there will always be companies that challenge the status quo. This is purely I think because no Insurance company has ever put more pressure on fleet owners to own up. Furthermore, we have only had excellent feedback from the drivers. This is a platform for the drivers to embrace the importance of the safety of other road users and themselves.
The drivers have been taken aback by the amount of effort and appreciation that goes into this campaign. In our view, drivers are professional people and should be made to feel proud of their profession.
What have been some of the most interesting insights gained from the interviews with truck drivers during the competition?
I think the fact that no one really understands the intensity of their daily routines was enlightening. Drivers must put up with poor resting conditions, constant pressure from fleet managers to meet targets and they have little to no protection when it comes to crime. Some drivers have even reverted to driving with firearms. One also realizes how the extended time away from their families affects them and how important it is for them to provide.
Could these insights be used in an educational or “info sharing” manner with all the trucking clients to enhance the safety of all road users on our roads!
Yes, however government buy-in is essential. Currently, there is just not enough support offered to truck owners and drivers alike. A starting point would be to increase properly managed safe stops in SA. Forums need to be held around penalties for companies that do not adhere to specified driving hours to avoid fatigue driving etc.
Are there other important aspects the public might not be aware of about Highway Heroes which we could share?
Highway Heroes is a heartfelt initiative. It is not just a competition. It empowers drivers to be the best that they can be and to take responsibility for their actions and therefore improve road safety. The campaign requests that the public give truck drivers time and space on the roads to deliver all our daily essentials safely.
Where can our truck owners find more information about Highways Heroes?
There is some excellent information on the web page on the Hollard website www.hollard.co.za/highway-heroes
[A word of appreciation to Elka du Piesanie - Operations Manager - Hollard Risk Services]