SaferStops Association (SSA), an innovative organisation dedicated to transforming the landscape for commercial drivers in South Africa through comprehensive safety and driver wellness initiatives, celebrated its official launch in July 2023. In its early stages, this groundbreaking public-private partnership has already gained significant traction, fuelled by a bold vision to create a more secure and supportive environment for all commercial drivers across the country.
“SaferStops emerged from the gender-diversity initiatives facilitated by the Commercial Transport Academy (CTA),” explains Nicci Scott-Anderson, founder of the CTA and the SSA. “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. We 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 apnea, and lifestyle diseases commonly affecting truck drivers.”
The groundbreaking SaferStops initiative is founded on five key pillars:
- Health and wellness initiatives: Providing access to tailored resources and support for maintaining physical, emotional and mental health
- Improving truck stops infrastructure: Setting an industry benchmark for the standardisation of truck stop facilities and infrastructure, creating a space for drivers to rejuvenate
- Education and development: Offering 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: Conducting research on truck driver welfare, working conditions and industry trends, to inform policies and programmes
- Public awareness campaigns: The launching of campaigns to increase awareness of the challenges that truck drivers encounter, daily
Collaboration for success
The SaferStops initiative has received pivotal support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), providing vital seed funding and unwavering support. 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, 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.
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. Moreover, there is a dire need to provide 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 - to elevate the facilities, infrastructure, and resources that these crucial workers rely upon, with an unerring focus on fostering safer truck stops.”
Pic: Nicci Scott-Anderson and Kas Govender