The Value of the Truck Driver

18 September 2014 | Print

Role-players in the transport industry often spend a lot of time dealing with the purchasing, operating, servicing and support of their fleet of trucks.  In many instances, not a lot of attention is given to the people who are actually driving these trucks. 

There are currently some 350 000 trucks operating on our roads that are driven by the unsung heroes of the trucking industry.  To many road users, they are a mere nuisance and menace on the highways, blocking traffic and causing accidents.

If you have ever watched a movie out of Hollywood with trucks in the storyline, it is amazing how they have the ability to romanticise the image of the truck driver and making it look like the best job in the world.   Being your own boss, seeing the country, the wide open road. 

However, after a recent survey done in the USA, many commented that truck driving should be taken off the list as a potential career for young people. People argued that the long hours, weekends away from home, the loneliness and boredom of the long road seems to far outweigh the spirit of adventure and the joy of the constant road trip, which previous generations seemed to embrace.

To be fair there are still many such spirits around and I am sure that operators could testify to this all over the country.  However, in reality, driving trucks for a living is indeed a tough and arduous job.

If we are to build a country that prospers economically, the plight of the driver is something that will need a lot of attention going into the future.

We will need to spend far more resources and time enticing young people into the truck driving arena and make it an attractive career opportunity in the process.  On the other hand we also need to continuously train drivers to operate these highly complex and potentially dangerous vehicles and the various vehicle combinations. 

There are a few distinct areas that we as an industry need to focus on and this include the safe operation of the vehicle itself; the efficient use of the vehicle and lastly the risk management of the truck, its load and that of human lives.

In focusing on these we will be able to enhance the safety of all road users.  There will also be addition benefits to operators in respect of the operating cost savings, the knock-on benefits to the consumers of goods carried by trucks, growing the region’s economy, as well as a reduction in the unnecessary loss of life as a result of truck accidents. 

Is this a problem that can be solved by truck manufacturers, or fleet operators or the authorities individually? No!  This serious issue must be the responsibility of all stakeholders involved in the truck industry, and even includes those parties involved all along the supply chain.

At UD Trucks, we support our dealers to offer driver training to their customers.  Be it that our focus is on teaching drivers to get the best out of our vehicles but also to teach them to use the equipment to operate the vehicles in a safe and secure manner. 

The concept of economic driving enhances safe driving and to put it simply, the faster you drive the more fuel you consume and the more dangerous and lethal the vehicle becomes for the operator and other road users. The correct use of retarders and engine brakes are also key, as this normally requires a slightly different technique and higher skill levels to operate a truck safely and to the best of its ability.

Another issue fleet owners face is to retain drivers to ensure that a pool of experienced drivers is built up that can mentor and coach new drivers and pass on their expertise. This also must include training on living a healthy lifestyle as the dangers and temptations of a life on the road can be devastating. 

In the end, it’s a tough job but for those who don’t want to be stuck in an office it is a good and viable alternative.

We all need to do our part to support, teach, encourage and reward the driver to ensure a better future for all.

By Rory Schulz, acting managing director, UD Trucks Southern Africa


Share on