Companies should place significant investment in training and educating their heavy transport vehicle drivers, in view of the increasing number of road accidents involving them.
According to The Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), heavy vehicles transporting goods have contributed to 28% of all road accidents in the country involving public vehicles with 116,037 in 2010 and 125,648 in 2011.
Road Transport Department (RTD) director of Automotive Engineering Division, Mohamad Dalib revealed today there are currently over 8 million active lorry drivers and that 87% of all road accidents are caused by human error.
Mohamad attributed this to the fact that Malaysian drivers are not properly informed and lack even a basic understanding of their vehicles.
For instance, he pointed out that 60% of drivers have no idea on the purpose of the dashboard instrumentation panel.
“Most people do not know what does E stands for in the fuel gauge. E stands for enough, not empty or emergency. When you are at E, you can still drive for a minimum of 60km depending how fast you are driving,” he said during a dialogue session entitled Safer Roads and Unbiased Gender Talent Creation – Role of Trucks at Impiana Hotel here.
The panellist include Scania Malaysia General Manager Idros Puteh, E-Response Group-of-Companies CEO Mohamed Noor Sany, Shell Road Transport Contract Manager Frizailah Azmi, Apollo Tyres Asean Head Shubhro Ghosh and Asian Trucker editor Stefan Pertz.
Mohamad added that it is not enough for lorry drivers to attend driving schools alone and added that employers must provide special classes.
“Unfortunately not all companies are open to providing special classes and some drivers are sent in their free time. The biggest problem is that the drivers still end up committing the same mistakes even after attending the classes,” he said.
He also admitted there are no regulations to limit the number of hours of driver are allowed to drive continuously.
“It very much depends on the individual and the company. Driver can reject a job by the employer but there is no law to protect them, “he added.
Frizailah, in his speech, stressed it is the role of the drivers to admit that they may not have enough sleep to continue driving. However, he agreed that economic factors and the policy of individual companies may have an impact on the drivers’ ability to turn down jobs due to fatigue.
He said companies must not only invest on their assets but also on human capital to protect the investments.
“You can group it into the human side and vehicle side. In a nutshell, you have to invest in human capital which includes the competency of the drivers, including the training, mindset and behaviour. To a certain extent you have to invest on the assurance on what you have invested in the drivers.
“That is where in-vehicle monitoring system comes. You get output on how the driver behaves when nobody is watching,” he said, referring to the Global Position System (GPS) to keep track of drivers’ whereabouts.
“On the vehicle side, each vehicle is intended to be operated and maintained in a certain way so there is no short cut about it. That includes certain things like certain type of tyres, spare parts and equipment,” he said.
He said companies must also invest in technologies in their heavy vehicles such as the electronic braking system.
To this end, Frizailah said a minimum of five percent of a company’s operating cost should be used for driver investment.
Mohamed Noor, on the other hand, said more focus should be placed on the employer and not the driver.
“Come on, let’s get real. Most of the drivers are poor and not educated to know their rights. We can’t blame the drivers if the employer promises more pay. What is even sinful is when owners ask the driver to carry 40 tonne goods on a lorry made for only 20 tonne,” he said, adding that such practices put the driver and the vehicle at risk.
He said the country has the necessary laws to ensure safety on the road but unfortunately the authorities have become “toothless tigers” due to lack of implementation.
He added the drivers have paid with their lives in accidents so the blame should go higher.
“What made them do it? That is the question that should be asked,” he said.