Although much has been said and done of late with various telematics programmes and the good risk management results starting to be of value, it must be noted that telematics are 70 % of the solution, writes Andre Stols a transport insurance broker with 40 years’ experience.

Non telematics risk management for heavy commercial vehiclesThe other 30 % of the risk management challenge, is the part where modern telematics cannot help with. This is the part where a good Insurance broker of many years’ experience can help with. It must be remembered that whether telematics or not, nothing can be successful in its application if the owner/logistical manager does not play his part and apply very strictly, all the rules as well as hands on daily management. I have seen too many times where a transport company fails totally if the owner is not hands on in his management.

Non-telematics risk pointers:

Fitment of bullbars: a bullbar costs R15 000, but on average, a claim where a large animal is hit and there is no bulbar, the claims cost is somewhere between R150 000 and R300 000. If a bulbar is fitted, this average claim is reduced to R20 000, not to talk about the saving of downtime due to repairs.

Parking at safe areas: stay out of areas where there is rioting or other high risk criminal elements and only park at safe places if the need is to stop for a rest or to buy food. After hours, the vehicle must park in a well-protected security area.

Hijacking/theft: the same applies in that a vehicle must avoid high risk areas, lock all doors and not stop at unsafe areas. A non-telematics/electronic system with passwords should be created old style, for example, this week, password is “springbok” – if you phone the driver and answers that, you know that he is being hijacked and held in custody. You can then alert the authorities and tracking company. Change the password every week and also when you hire new drivers.

Driver training and recruitment: drivers must be trained well in both driving ability as well as risk management aspects. Get drivers from a reputable agency that has screened the driver. Only use drivers over 30 years of age that are married as they usually look after their jobs better due to the fact that they have families to look after.

License checking: the validity of licences and driver permits (in RSA PrDP, Zimbabwe Defensive Drivers Permit and Sadc countries, International Drivers permit) and send the driver two months prior to renewal date for his/her renewal.

Service/maintenance: it is a condition of snsurance cover that the vehicle is maintained with special attention to tyres and brakes (especially the trailer brakes). Do not take chances with pirate parts (like the slack adjusters of which the pirate parts do not have the same metal fatigue ability). Give the driver a daily pre-trip checklist that he must complete and sign and then checked again by the person in charge of the mechanical part of the vehicles. Remember to renew the COF in time.

Long trips and night driving: drivers must stop (at safe places) more or less every two hours to stretch legs. More vigilance is necessary as many accidents happen at night.

Narrow single lanes: the narrower the road lane becomes, the more the driver must slow down the speed.

Driver behaviour: owners/logistical managers must be strict in forbidding drinking or usage of other substances as it interferes with the drivers’ three dimensional observance ability.

Legal height of vehicle: the law stipulates no more than 4,3 m from the ground to the top of the vehicle or load, without any special permit.

High risk goods: alternate routes and take extra precautions to safeguard the goods.

Bad weather conditions: like in Mpumalanga with the winter mist. Drivers must slow down to almost standstill speed. Also in rainy wet road conditions and in mountain passes.

Over correction: if the driver goes off the road, he must slowly correct very calculated, because if he reacts too quickly, he overcorrects, not allowing for the snake effect of the rig – this can cause him to swerve into oncoming traffic.

Standing at an angle when tipping: the vehicle must always stand on level ground which is firm and be watchful in rainy wet conditions.

Impatience: this is the cause of most accidents, telematics or not.

Turnover pushing by owners: this is the root of all evil as this causes the drivers to over speed and causing more accidents.

Refrigerated trailers: this is the worst risk that any insurer can have on their books. This is due to the height and the risk of high cross winds. This type of vehicle requires a totally different driving style than a flat deck trailer and even swerving out to avoid hitting an animal can be dangerous as it causes this vehicle to easily topple over. Equally so, drivers must be trained to set the temperature to the correct setting for the type of goods carried. The refrigerating unit must be maintained every 4 000 hours at least.

Loading/offloading of goods: drivers MUST always be present when this happens in order to observe if damaged goods are being loaded onto his vehicle and when offloading, if the goods are being damaged by the person offloading at the final point.

Use of cellphones: statistics show that it is six times more dangerous than a drunk driver to SMS on a cellphone when driving – very dangerous as the vehicle nine out of 10 times steers to the right and into oncoming traffic.

Speeding: although telematics monitor this and the vehicle is pre-set at say 85 km/h, we often still see speeds in excess of 110 km/h, going downhill. This is dangerous and wastes diesel. Drivers do not know that it takes 110 m for a 34 t rig to get to a halt from 80 km/h.

Lastly, each owner should have their own driver of the year award system where they give the winner in their fleet, a special bonus (big additional cheque) and a certificate. They should create a points system of say 100 points (like on a school report), of which accident free driving must make out 60 of the 100 points. They can then select other things like punctuality, no traffic fines, clean vehicle among the rest of the 100 points, the other 40 points.

The law: transporters must download from the Internet the road traffic Act 93 0f 1996 and all its later additions (like Regulation 330 A to D that has a direct bearing on Insurance) as he must know this Act and apply it. Remember that insurance follows the law, as simple as that.