Why the cost of safe logistics is worth every penny

By Arend du Preez, MD of Crossroads Distribution

Stock theft and hijackings are major concerns for logistics organisations moving white goods but few other sectors of the industry. Vehicle crashes, on the other hand, are a concern for all sectors of the logistics industry.

There are many costs associated with these accidents, none higher than that paid in human lives. The figures vary slightly but, according to The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), South Africa suffers somewhere in the region of 12 000 to 13 000 road crash fatalities annually (rising by about 7% per year for the past two years) representing around 26 people per 100 000 inhabitants. Most of those involve normal cars. In fact, cars make up 65% of the vehicles on our roads, light duty vehicles around 22%, and trucks, motorbikes, buses and minibuses a mere 3% each.

So, while the price of road accidents is highest for humans, their lives being irreplaceable, it is also with humans that, from our perspective, we find the greatest success in curbing the causes of collisions and accidents.

Driver behaviour is our number one area of success in reducing the results of poor driving. My own company and many other responsible logistics businesses, exert a lot of effort and expense to improve safety. We use technology, for example, to help us enforce policies related to training. Those include tracking systems and in some cases systems built into vehicles during production. The systems track vehicle movement, including sudden swerves and harsh braking, as well as use cameras to record drivers in cabs to tell if they’re falling asleep, paying attention to the road, focusing at the correct anticipatory distances ahead of their vehicles, whether or not they skip stop streets, and more.

We couple that to training programmes that demonstrate and instil good driver behaviour and we apply the rules across our organisation to make them equitable. That’s important because good behaviour must become part of the DNA of the organisation for it to really take root. If we allowed our directors or mechanics to use cellphones while driving our vehicles or on our premises but we penalised our truck drivers then we’d just be creating a toxic environment. So we apply the rule equally across the board.

The culture of responsible behaviour begins in the cab but it extends to medical check-ups very similar to the ones that pilots undergo. We also conduct regular drug tests, alcohol tests (before every departure even if that means a driver who stopped at a rest stop overnight).

Trucks drivers, like almost every adult in the country, are exposed to the broader South African road usage culture that, while rooted in law, is often interpreted in many ways by different people. That makes it even more paramount for our industry to create a beacon of responsible behaviour, a situation that many do even as a minority of organisations give an entire industry a bad reputation.

Positive reinforcement is another major factor in successfully promoting good driving behaviour at work. Our drivers get regular incentives for good performance, from quarterly scoreboards to annual recognition and rewards. Many other experienced operators do likewise.

One of the challenges our industry faces is when there’s a new entrant to the market. They don’t always rigidly apply the hard lessons others have learned about the value of self-regulation. Safety is never a cheap option. It’s expensive to constantly train drivers, invest in the latest telematics and other technologies, and offer incentives among other initiatives, but many companies in our industry have learned that it ultimately helps the long-term revenues for all of us to make the investment to avert the human tragedy.

About Crossroads Distribution

Crossroads, a subsidiary of Community Investment Holdings (CIH), is a diversified domestics and regional services group with associated capabilities internationally, owning an impressive blue chip customer base in its sector.It is a key role-player in the logistics and supply chain management environment in Southern Africa with an associated footprint in Europe. The business employs roughly 900 people, owns more than 380 vehicles, and has access to superior subcontractor vehicles and retains its own warehouses. Crossroads’ strategy combines the best available skills and supply chain management specialists and, where necessary, best in breed IT systems that enable it to provide customers with the most efficient and cost effective logistics and supply chain management solutions available. Crossroads is SABS 14001, 18001, and 9001- certified for SANS and ISO environment management system, health and safety management, and quality management systems compliance. These qualities have seen the business quietly and consistently maintain robust partnerships with South Africa’s biggest and most successful organisations, such as Total, South African Post Office (SAPO), Xstrata, Hulamin, Air Liquide, Anglo Platinum, Distell, Kumba Iron Ore, and many others for the past nearly 100 years. For more information visit privately held Crossroads’ website at www.crossroads.co.za