From the editor's desk: Drive to survive

Issue 1 2023 News

Andrew Seldon, Editor

Nobody is surprised by the horrible driving habits of many people on South Africa’s roads. Lack of policing, except when collecting money, and the related overall acceptance and encouragement by government of lawlessness has led to some insane drivers out there, and high stress levels in normal people trying to get on with their lives (and it is not only South African taxis to blame).

Someone told me a story recently as an explanation of why delivery drivers, of small and large vehicles, are taking chances and creating a hazard on the roads. Apparently, many companies used the COVID lockdowns and subsequent economic problems to take their drivers off a fixed salary and pay them according to the trips or deliveries they make.

This is obviously a clever way for the companies to make more money and reduce their employment costs, but in the current economic downturn (apparently calling it a recession isn’t allowed, yet), this simply leads to drivers going overboard in their drive (pun intended) to put food on the table. No delivery means no money.

Not only are many of these drivers ignoring speed limits and safe driving, but they are also not taking the breaks they need, losing sleep and thereby making their driving even worse due to exhaustion.

As if the logistics industry isn’t under enough pressure with violent crime thriving due to a lack of consequences for anything except telling the truth (as the ex-CEO of Eskom recently demonstrated) or cooperating with companies and whatever authorities may still be operational, now the whole safety issue is creating new concerns. Imagine the eventual insurance costs these companies will face after endless claims from the ‘less ethical’.

Of course, it must be said that this is not a reflection of all the logistics companies out there. Many still insist on safety and even use in-cab technology to warn drivers of bad driving or exhaustion and other behaviours. However, the tunnel vision on money of some, whether it’s paying as little as possible to have your products delivered or saving money by putting drivers and the public in general at risk, is causing problems.

In a country with supposedly such rigid and inflexible labour laws and too much government interference in the employer/employee relationship – which is quite funny when you consider the government leaders’ contempt and complete lack of concern for the law – this is unacceptable.

The performance of drivers and the attitude of logistics companies is not simply a matter of money, it impacts the general public which will be the victims of bad driving. And as is always the case, it will be the drivers who are blamed and not the companies exploiting them. Perhaps the logistics industry needs to be at the TAPA conference in March this year in Johannesburg?


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