Since the start of lockdown, truck drivers were often at the forefront of the measures taken to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it was a tanker delivering petrol or food items on a light truck, it was due to this industry that many nations, including Nigeria, continued to function throughout all stages of the lockdown.
As the economy starts to recover from the financial implications of lockdown, industries that use these vehicles will continue to rely on drivers to effectively and safely move their products around.
The added pressure that was placed on transporters of liquids, gas or bulk items such as foodstuff at the start of level five lockdown will continue for some time to come.
This means that challenges such as increased time on the road and consequent fatigued driving, increased exposure to the virus and even increased levels of crime add to the complexity and stress levels that drivers are facing. The difficulty with this is that drivers who face higher levels of stress have been shown to take more risks when driving, such as travelling at higher speeds, and have a reduced ability to handle unexpected and dangerous situations.
As a fleet operators need to ensure that their drivers are equipped with the necessary support and skills to guide them through this time.
If the hours are becoming too demanding and consequently risky, they need to hire more drivers or make adjustments to work schedules.
They also need to provide drivers with the necessary PPE equipment and education on COVID-19 and how to reduce exposure and risk.
As a fleet operator, training your drivers is also essential to provide the knowledge and skills needed to be the best drivers they can be. If a driver understands why certain safety measures exist or is aware of instances where crashes are a high risk, they are better equipped to avoid crashes even at high stress levels. Knowledge of one’s vehicles, irrespective of what is being transporting, places the power in the hands of drivers.
There is no better way for a driver to fully appreciate the consequences of bad driving than allowing him or her to feel it. In the specially designed commercial vehicles, this is possible, but without the major cost attached to it.
It is, therefore, imperative; to provide truck drivers with the support that they need to safely navigate this difficult period.
Eugene Herbert is the managing director of MasterDrive, SA
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