Truck driver training in South Africa

One of the most important requirements for creating safety on South African roads

Truck driver training is important not only for other road users, but also for the road freight industry as a whole, to curtail costs associated with driver deaths and injuries, as well as to reduce truck and freight damage.

The cost of freight vehicle accidents on South African roads is estimated to have cost R15 billion in 2012.

Studies put the total road freight volume at approximately 1.5 billion tons per year. There are highly effective road freight operations, managed to world-class standards that move more than 80% of all industrial cargo.

But there are also a growing number of sub-standard operations contributing to the growing problems with road safety regarding road freight, according to the Road Freight Strategy 2017 from the Department of Transport.

Sean Gray, operations director of Nosa Logistics, sums it up perfectly: “Truck drivers are not taught how to driver defensively when learning how to drive, they are taught how to pass their license (K53) and this can be equated to passing matric but expecting to display tertiary education qualifications.”

Truck driver training: Who trains truck drivers?

Various logistics companies offer training for truck drivers, as well as truck manufacturers who offer training on how to drive its trucks. There are also companies that make use of truck driving simulators to assist truck drivers get the basics right.

Furthermore, independent truck driver training companies also offer training for truck driver trainers, while the Barloworld Transport Academy focuses on road transport training as well.

In terms of truck manufacturers, Scania Connected Services offers the following:

  • Pre-employment assessment to assess the driver’s capabilities and whether or not they comply with the rules of the road at R990. (1 day)
  • Complete vehicle introduction course that integrates all aspects of economic and safe vehicle driving operations according to Scania requirements, at R3 484 per driver. (2 days)
  • Advanced product knowledge course to upgrade an experienced trainer to train the operator’s drivers in correct operation of a Scania truck at R9 211 per trainer. (5 days).
  • On-board training that integrates all aspects of economic and safe vehicle operation at R348.00 per hour. The duration depends on the route.
  • Refresher truck driver course at R1 742. (1 day)
  • Vehicle familiarisation course at R990. (1 day)

*All prices quoted above exclude VAT, travel and accommodation fees.

Nosa Logistics charges R2 550 per day to have a driver trainer on site for practical or theoretical purposes, but this does not include the cost of removing the driver out of operations for the day. It takes a minimum of three days, but can be delivered over five days to incorporate compliance renewal training.

MasterDrive offers standard and accredited defensive driving for heavy motor vehicles, as well as driver assessments and a rollover prevention program. Prices vary from just under R1 000 to just under R10 000. The duration depends on the kind of training done and can take from one to two days.

The Road Freight Strategy indicates that the cost of professional heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver training is very high, with training costing about R1.5 million per driver and R9 to R12 per kilometre to run. Securing the necessary premises and facilities can add a possible R1 million before any training is done.

Truck driver training: Where are truck drivers trained?

Some OEM’s like Scania train truck drivers at their own academies, as well as customers’ sites and on-board training while the driver is on duty.

Gray says drivers are mostly trained on client sites, but it can also be done at the training company’s premises, depending on access to client specific vehicles.

Gary Clackworthy, deputy managing director of MasterDrive, says it is mostly done on the road to determine the driver’s actual driving skills and habits to improve overall driving.

Truck driver training: The benefits

Truck driver training has many benefits. “It helps drivers understand how important it is to operate our trucks economically, while also considering their safety and the safety of all other road users.

“Training ensures a professional level of driver competency and good driver skills and knowledge ensures better road safety,” says Martha Montsho, driver service support coordinator at Scania Connected Services.

Clackworthy emphasises that driver training literally saves the lives of truck drivers. “It ensures that they have confidence in their own driving skill levels and are aware of the possible potential driving hazards around them.

“Every driver wants to be the best driver possible, but the K53 test level only indicates that they are good enough to be on the public road. It does not teach them how to be a good driver. Well-trained, professional drivers take their own safety very seriously.”

Truck driver training: The importance of training

“Trucks cost more than R2 million and if drivers are not taught to drive them efficiently and safely in the most effective way, operators will need to replace or repair trucks too often, which would eat into the already pressured margins in transport,” Gray says.

Montsho points out that it is important to equip customers with concepts and tools for a good cross-section of driving skill within their fleets to improve fuel consumption, reduce maintenance costs, reduce vehicle down time, increase profitability and keep business sustainable.

According to Clackworthy, training truck drivers controls losses and reduces risk. “The trucking industry is under so much pressure right now and the only way to save money is to control their running costs. They can do this by training their drivers. Studies have shown an increase in fuel efficiency of up to 20%, with a reduction in servicing and part replacements as well as crash rates.”

Truck driver training: Driver requirements

According to the Road Freight Strategy, applicants for goods transport must be at least 18, irrespective of driver licence category and 25 for PrDP (dangerous goods). The PrDP categories do not relate to the vehicle configurations sand PrDP categories effectively rate a 5-ton load of diesel higher than an 80-seater bus load of passengers.

It also does not require experience or professional training for drivers of maximum GCM articulated combinations.

A truck driver also needs the willingness to want to drive better and be safer on the roads, says Gray. Montsho adds that foreign drivers must have a valid foreign driver’s license with a valid medical test. All drivers must have driving experience with heavy EC loaded articulated vehicles.

How often must drivers be trained?

Recommendations range from an annual refresher course to a full course every two years.

How to choose the right training school

Clackworthy warns against fly-by-night training schools and recommends that companies do their homework to choose the best fit for their specific needs. “Choose the leaders in the training industry because they will provide the best quality training.

“Find a company that concentrates on driver behaviour change that also offers defensive driver training that is TETA and SETA accredited. Never choose the cheap option, because this will not change the risk levels and driver behaviour.”

One Comment

  1. I agree 100%, but due to our economic situation, training is the first thing companies cut back on.

    Directors would rather take the risk and hope nothing happens than have their staff trained.

    The vehicle and the freight are insured and there are plenty of drivers around. A new law will have to be put in place before the situation will change for the better.

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