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Road Freight & Fleet Management Opinion South Africa

How fleet management can improve road safety

South African roads face a persistent safety crisis, with thousands of fatalities annually. Justin Manson, sales director at Webfleet, discusses how fleet owners can cultivate stronger relationships with drivers to enhance road safety, protect goods, and improve overall driver well-being.

The Department of Transport recorded a 2.3% decrease in the number of road fatalities during the 2023/24 festive season from 1,212 in the 2022/2023 season to 1,184.

Minister of transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga, stated that human factors contributed to 80.8% of the crashes, while environmental factors contributed 10.4% as a result of heavy rainfall and storms and lastly motor vehicle factors contributed about 8.8%.

This statistic focuses on all drivers, whether for personal or business reasons. 

While professional commercial transport operators may contribute a smaller portion of the overall number of fatalities, they have increasingly been in the news in recent years due to their involvement in some high-profile fatal crashes.

Using an integrated programme of technology, training and ongoing mentorship, transporters have the potential to contribute to a significant improvement in overall road safety, while reducing liability to their customers and their goods.

Holistic training

Rising transport costs and tight margins are pushing transport operators to cut expenses where they can. 

Unfortunately, this could affect the areas that most directly affect safety, training and maintenance.

While technology may help one to arrive at destinations on time, the ever-increasing scope of features with onboard telematics systems often goes unnoticed. 

For instance, some drivers may not fully appreciate the integration between their primary on-board telematics with other third-party software and hardware.

They also might differentiate between a consumer traffic app and a professional navigation system for large vehicle navigation, that also accounts for vehicle dimensions (length, width/height/weight/cargo) and routes accordingly, avoiding smaller roads and low bridges.

Driver training shouldn’t just be limited to acquiring a driving licence but should include the reading of diagnostic reports, accessing communication tools and interpreting long-term data to improve driver behaviour over time. 

A driver should be proficient and be able to read and respond to existing and new features in a chosen system.

It’s not only drivers who require training, for instance, control room or fleet operators should be trained on how best to effectively communicate with drivers, so as to avoid miscommunication and possible conflict scenarios. Conflict with fleet operators also puts a lot of stress on drivers.


While training may go a long way to build basic skills, it is only through direct engagement with more experienced drivers and managers that new drivers can gain the necessary knowledge to not only manage their vehicles and technology better but themselves as well.

Drivers need to know how to best manage their own health and alertness while on the road, and only through constant engagement and even regular workshops can they hear from other operators, while also building up team morale in an industry where a driver is often alone for weeks at a time.

Continuous development

Telematics systems are continuously evolving, with ever-increasing data sets and new functionality emerging to enhance the driver’s experience, like reminders to rest, locations of rest stops, and a variety of planning, diagnostic and maintenance tools.

Managers need to have open and continuous discussions with their drivers and feed constant information and relevant news (live road works, new developments, expected community unrest, etc.). 

This not only ensures that processes are continuously refined, but it also helps to build a good relationship with drivers over the long term.

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