SaferStops: a driver’s knight in shining armour

SaferStops: a driver’s knight in shining armour

I’m a huge fan of any initiative to help truck drivers, so the launch of the SaferStops Association has me cheering from the sidelines.

I believe that truck drivers have one of the worst jobs on the planet. It is fairly tedious and quite thankless. The hours are long. They spend most of their lives away from their families. In Africa, it’s downright dangerous too.

It is thus that the launch of the SaferStops Association has me seriously excited. At last, someone is actually doing something to help truck drivers!

That “someone” is FOCUS columnist Nicci Scott-Anderson. The serial entrepreneur, who founded the Commercial Transport Academy (CTA) some time ago, has now founded the SaferStops Association. Her aim? To transform the truck stops around the country and introduce “SaferStops” as the new gold standard to which every truck stop should aspire.

“SaferStops emerged from the gender-diversity initiatives facilitated by the CTA,” explains Scott-Anderson. “In the process of pinpointing obstacles preventing women from embarking on long-haul trucking careers, we discerned a profound shortage of truck stops addressing female drivers’ unique requirements. Our investigation of truck stops along principal routes revealed widespread shortcomings in catering to the enduring physical and emotional well-being of drivers – irrespective of their gender.”

Support for SaferStops has been overwhelming, as this mosaic wall with industry support shows. Pictured are Nicci Scott-Anderson (left) and Kas Govender of the CTA.

Scott-Anderson says the CTA also identified a pattern linking a multitude of road accidents to chronic fatigue. “This exhaustion isn’t merely linked to insufficient sleep, but is frequently tied to poor nutrition, adrenal burnout, sleep apnoea, and lifestyle diseases commonly affecting truck drivers,” she emphasises.

The SaferStops initiative is founded on five key pillars:

  • Health and wellness initiatives: SaferStops aims to provide access to tailored resources and support for maintaining physical, emotional, and mental health.
  • Improving truck stop infrastructure: SaferStops wants to set an industry benchmark for the standardisation of truck stop facilities and infrastructure, creating a space for drivers to rejuvenate.
  • Education and development: SaferStops will offer opportunities for training to move from the class and into the cab, as drivers use new technologies to enhance their skills and knowledge.
  • Research and data collection: SaferStops aims to conduct research on truck driver welfare, working conditions, and industry trends to inform policies and programmes.
  • Public awareness campaigns: Planned campaigns aim to increase awareness of the daily challenges that truck drivers encounter.

SaferStops has received pivotal support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which provided vital seed funding. Additionally, numerous prominent companies, government departments, and leading industry associations have forged partnerships with SaferStops, demonstrating their commitment to the cause. Notable collaborators include Hollard, Ctrack, Engen, UD Trucks, Guud, Michelin, the Department of Transport, and the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport, as well as the Road Freight Association and the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry. 

SaferStops has already initiated several projects aimed at improving driver well-being and safety. One such project introduces healthy meal alternatives for commercial drivers at truck stops. Additionally, the focus extends to exercise facilities, with plans to provide drivers with access to on-site gyms, allowing them to stretch, work out, and break the routine of spending up to 12 hours in a truck.

SaferStops partners celebrating its launch. Pictured from left are Engen’s commercial marketing and business development manager, Adnaan Emeran; Nicci Scott-Anderson (SaferStops); Mihlali Gqada, director of logistics infrastructure at the Department of Transport; Nash Omar, CEO of Hollard Insure; and Gavin Kelly, CEO of the Road Freight Association.

Mental health is another priority for SaferStops. “We now know that depression is one of the leading problems that truck drivers suffer from, particularly with the time they spend alone. Mental, physical, and emotional health are all key, and we will be looking to address all of these requirements,” says Scott-Anderson.

This is a topic I came across earlier this year while visiting the Brisbane Truck Show. The show’s charity partner was an organisation called Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds. It was founded because mental health is recognised as a significant issue for the Australian road transport and logistics industries. Risk factors – such as long hours, workplace isolation, pressure to meet delivery schedules, and the need for continual alertness while operating heavy machinery – all contribute to making those in the transport, postal, and warehousing industries extremely vulnerable to mental health issues, according to a spokesperson for the not-for-profit charitable foundation.

Exactly the same situation exists in South Africa. Moreover, there is a dire need to provide local drivers with WiFi access and entertainment facilities at truck stops, to enable them to rest and recuperate en route.

To empower drivers with valuable skills and new qualifications, SaferStops is actively developing easily accessible and user-friendly education and learning materials. These resources will be designed to be readily accessible and easily digestible, ensuring that drivers can conveniently enhance their knowledge and acquire new qualifications.

“We know we cannot tackle this challenge alone,” continues Scott-Anderson. “As the bedrock of the logistics industry and wider economy, truck drivers perform an essential role and should be considered essential workers. Their tireless efforts power our communities, and it’s our turn to give back. At SaferStops, our dedication is unwavering. We want to elevate the facilities, infrastructure, and resources that these crucial workers rely upon, with an unerring focus on fostering safer truck stops.”

We salute Nicci for taking the initiative to launch SaferStops. It is a much-needed entity that should make the lives of truck drivers a little more enjoyable, healthier, and less dangerous.

Having said that, I’m still not giving up my job to become a truck driver…

Published by

Charleen Clarke

CHARLEEN CLARKE is editorial director of FOCUS. While she is based in Johannesburg, she spends a considerable amount of time overseas, attending international transport events – largely in her capacity as associate member of the International Truck of the Year Jury.
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