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Never mind the road safety stick – we need more carrots (and heroes)

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Every holiday period, we South Africans apparently like to tut-tut about the carnage on our roads.

We bemoan the fact that despite the efforts of the authorities, more and more people die every time. We gossip about the spiralling death toll as it happens, often forgetting that each addition represents a life, a loved one, prematurely snuffed out.

It’s a grotesque pastime. And it’s indicative that we’re not looking correctly at this very serious issue.

While strict traffic law enforcement must be applied always, perhaps we should be placing as much emphasis on rewarding excellent driving as we do on policing poor driving.

It stands to reason that the better we all drive, the less likely it is that accidents will happen. And fewer accidents mean fewer unnecessary deaths, and less lost productivity to our economy.

At Hollard Trucking, where I work, that’s exactly what we’re doing with Hollard Highway Heroes.

We promote better driving by long-distance truckers, using the incentive of handsome prizes to encourage them to be the best they can be when it comes to speeding, harsh braking, and fatigue driving during the day and night (measured through how far they drive and how often they rest).

And those truck drivers who take part rise to the challenge, and we have the telematics numbers to prove it.

During the 2018 campaign’s final 45-day monitoring phase, the top five drivers logged the following: speeding events came down from 1 194 to only two. There were no harsh braking events. Fatigue day came down from 10 to two events and fatigue night was down from 11 to four events. (The drivers averaged 17 000km each during this 45-day period.)

Then we looked at the top five high-risk drivers we were monitoring over the same 45 days. The differences were startling: 8 900 speeding events; two harsh braking events; 25 fatigue day events; and 24 fatigue night events.

Overall, we measured a 65% improvement in participating drivers’ behaviour over the campaign period. What’s more, they continued to drive well long after the competition was over – which tells us that good things can also be habit-forming – and they inspired non-participating colleagues to also do better out on the road.

Yes, Hollard Highway Heroes is a corporate campaign that is intended to deliver returns on investment. And it does: we have fewer claims to process, and our fleet owner customers save substantial money in terms of lower maintenance, fuel and insurance costs.

But we’ve come to appreciate that Highway Heroes has a much bigger benefit, one that goes way beyond bottom lines: it makes our roads safer for tens of millions of people.

According to the Road Accident Fund, about 80% of South Africans – that’s almost 46-million of us – are road users, as drivers, passengers and pedestrians. That’s a lot of people at risk on a regular basis, each one representing a good reason why we should be trying harder to drive better.

And drive better futures. Many of you will be familiar with Hollard’s business purpose, which we call Better Futures. It holds that everything we do, and how we do it, should create better futures for more people. That’s what Highway Heroes seeks to do – for truck drivers, fleet owners, you and me, and the people we all treasure most.

In the past, the competition was open only to drivers who worked for Hollard Trucking customers. That’s changed this year, and now all long-distance truck drivers, irrespective of their insurer, can enter – and stand to win the grand prize of R100 000.

We grasp that the only way we can really amplify the road safety benefit that Hollard Highway Heroes offers, is to not limit the pool of potential entrants. So that’s what we’re doing, and we’re giving more people – both truck drivers and other road users – the chance at better futures.

I hope that Hollard Highway Heroes draws exponentially more entrants this year than last year, because it means thousands more people actively driving to the best of their ability and in accordance with the law. I also hope that it inspires others to look for ways to proactively improve safety on our roads.

Then, just maybe, we can start to bring down our country’s appalling road accident statistics. And our conversations at holiday times can become a little less macabre, and instead focus on the joys of travel, relaxation and family.

To find out more about Hollard Highway Heroes, please visit our website