Study shows alarming safety concerns in SMME road freight sector

A survey by JC Auditors (JCA) has painted a grim picture of failing safety systems within the road freight sector of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs).

The study shows a disheartening scenario that necessitates collective action to significantly improve South Africa’s lamentable road safety record.

JCA managing director Oliver Naidoo said key findings from the survey show a widespread absence of robust safety measures that in turn jeopardize the wellbeing of both heavy-duty vehicle drivers and public road users.

“The survey findings revealed a concerning lack of compliance with the relevant requirements of the National Road Traffic Act and other industry standards, with 64% of participating companies lacking proper compliance measures,” said Naidoo.

“A striking 68% of SMME road freight companies were found to have inadequate vehicle maintenance programmes. Neglecting proper maintenance increases the risk of mechanical failures, leading to accidents and disruptions in supply chains.

“An astonishing 72% of respondents reported insufficient driver training. This lack of training heightens the risk of accidents and undermines the overall safety culture on our roads.”

Naidoo explained further: “While formal driver training is crucial, it is just one element in fostering the necessary safe driving culture. Driver monitoring, coaching, and visible management commitment are also vital.

“It also has a significant economic impact considering that the last Road Traffic Management Corporation Report indicated the cost of crashes to be R142-billion or 3.4% of GDP [gross domestic product].”

The survey also revealed that 78% of companies indicated that drivers were not assessed for medical fitness on an annual basis, and an overwhelming 92% of companies were unaware of whether any of their drivers had chronic illnesses.

Naidoo expressed concern regarding the findings, highlighting the urgency for collaboration among industry stakeholders, regulatory bodies, and government authorities to address the identified deficiencies within the SMME road freight sector.

“The survey provides us with a chance to enhance the safety culture within SMMEs and implement robust systems that foster a safe operating environment, which include a development of robust safety policy to conduct comprehensive risk assessments, enhancing driver selection and training, implementing driver monitoring systems, as well as ensuring vehicle maintenance and promoting safety culture.”

According to Naidoo, the implementation of these steps can lead to substantial improvement in safety performance, risk mitigation, and the wellbeing of employees and the public.

The JCA said it is upbeat and dedicated to collaborating with industry stakeholders to drive change and cultivate a safety oriented culture within the SMME road freight sector.

As part of these efforts, the company will launch the 2023 SMME Road Freight Summit on June 30 in partnership with Grow SA, to foster discussions aimed at enhancing the safety performance of South Africa’s SMME road freight transporters.


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