Transport Month: Long way to go to increase road safety

Dealerfloor poses a few questions to various role players in the automotive sphere on specific issues with the eye on Transport Month.

Transport Month 3

Eugene Herbert is Group CEO/COO of MasterDrive with an in-depth knowledge of road safety as well as the transport industry.

1: What is the current state of transport in SA in terms of safety, roads, driving skills and a mixture of very old vehicles to new EVs?

The commercial vehicle sector is still way behind the US and Europe when it comes to the use of EVs for deliveries etc. One hears of trails and certainly success in specific applications, and I believe that it if were not for the “insecurity” of power supply, we would have been much further in the use of EVs. While that is true, I also think some “diehard” old-school fleet managers are using it as an excuse for not implementing.

Safety is at an all-time low with the torching of vehicles, but that said, the leading companies are being as proactive as they can and using technology that is, in many instances, staying ahead of the game.

A long-overlooked component is the well-being of drivers, which is now being addressed through initiatives such as “Safer Stops” – this should ensure that the basics and then some are made available to these persons. MasterDrive, in its Fleet Safety Awards, endeavours to recognise excellence where is exists. At this point, things are looking positive for the years ahead.

2: What is the single most important thing that needs to happen to increase the safety conditions on our roads for all road users?

Improve the overall driving standards of all drivers, but it has to start with those entering the ‘market’. If the high percentage of fraudulent licences can be addressed, then surely one would have more confidence in sharing the road with other users. That, indirectly connected but critical, is the roadworthiness of many vehicles whose owners ‘get away’ with it because of corruption. Corporates are doing their part, but more is needed from officials.

3: What should be the priorities from government’s side on the short, medium and long term to improve conditions?

Given that AARTO will at some point be implemented, it has to be seen that its use will be fair and for the purpose intended – improved road safety being one of the key issues. That act will be administered by a force that has a high level of “corrupt” persons, and it must be made palatable. One of the ways this can be done is by educating law enforcement on how to engage with the public – this is evident in other parts of the world where laws are enforced but the manner in which it is done makes the “pain” bearable. A start would be in changing the K53 system with a graduated licensing system for new drivers.

4: MasterDrive recently held its Safety Awards for the Transport Industry. What are the advantages of the awards and are there plans to expand them?

This year we had 252 entries (2022 saw 110) and next year we anticipate at least 400. We believe that those hard-working individuals and companies should be recognised for their efforts and rewarded – in the case of the driver (Road Warrior category) and the Fleet Manager, it is financial. In addition to large cash awards, each of the Fleet Manager category entrants received a free Fleet Management Course – courtesy of one of our partners with a value of R5 000 each, a total value of over 100K.

5: What is the most serious negative impact transport conditions currently have of the South African economy?

The cost of running a business, with the high fuel costs, is putting a strain on operators, and my fear is that some may be tempted to cut back on maintenance, which will have a ripple effect in the long term’ not only putting businesses at risk, but endangering road users in general.

Possibly more than that is the impact of crime and the effects of limited jobs – as you will see it impacts on SA residents, but also spills over into the overall economy owing to actions taken to limit the employment of foreigners. Sadly, intolerance and the propensity of some to resort to violence at a moment’s notice are hurting the economy and it continues to bleed.

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