The importance of ensuring commercial and transport driving permits are up-to-date, and that drivers meet all requirements, cannot be underestimated by fleet and vehicle owners and operators. Close to half a million heavy-duty truck and bus drivers are operating on South African roads with expired or no driving permits, as
reported recently by the Road Traffic Management Corporation.

This has served as a contributing factor, along with serious issues like poor maintenance of vehicles, to the numerous cases of serious or deadly collisions. An example of the consequences of poor maintenance coupled with driver negligence could be seen in a frightening crash on Johannesburg’s Queen Elizabeth Bridge as well as a fatal crash which has led to investigations into the condition of Metrobus’ aging fleet and the fitness of its drivers.

Not only do incidents such as these pose serious risks to public safety and the vehicle drivers themselves, but they also cost businesses millions every year in damages to assets, loss of loads and rejected insurance claims due to negligence or non-compliance. With South Africa’s increasing economic and trade activity, fleet numbers on the public roads are expected to rise, and driving of these vehicles has become sought-after employment opportunities for many. Unfortunately, almost half of the current employed drivers do not have the correct training or certification.

The Road Safety Act states that it is the responsibility of the fleet operators and vehicle owners to ensure that their employee’s professional driver permits are renewed according to regulation, and that drivers meet the required standards. Driver employment screening also requires drivers to supply a medical fitness certificate and a clean criminal record. Cases which are viewed as negligent or non-compliant include accidents due to overloading, speeding or reckless driving, as well as improperly trained and permitted drivers – among others.

It is important to always establish whether the driver of a vehicle who is transporting goods on your behalf (as the business or vehicle owner) is in possession of a valid professional drivers permit. This is necessary as some insurers may exclude any losses to the cargo, even if you were not aware of the fact that the driver does not have a valid license. It is also a general rule among most insurance providers that they will not be liable for any accident, injury, loss, damage or liability if the insured is not in the possession of the correct and up-to-date license, as required by the National Road Traffic act.

Horrific crashes which have claimed the lives of many – including those of young children – has created substantial financial burdens on both public and private parties involved and have prompted authorities to renew their efforts in ensuring these laws and bi-laws are properly enforced and those who break the rules are held to account. Failure to comply may not only result in further accidents and legal action, but may also have insurance implications – with hefty costs involved.

While technology solutions such as telematics already exist to track the behaviour of drivers and vehicles, we welcome the proposition of new legislation or enforcement procedures being put in place to reduce the number of truck and bus related accidents in the future. We urge all fleet owners to ensure their vehicles are properly maintained by rolling out best practice procedures in the checking and upgrading of fleets. This simple measure can save both lives and resources.