SA truckers look to telematics to avoid collisions

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 08 Nov 2023
In 2023, a total of 1 313 truck collisions occurred, says Webfleet.
In 2023, a total of 1 313 truck collisions occurred, says Webfleet.

Fleet telematics systems are playing a crucial role in preventing collisions on South African roads.

This is one of the findings of the 2023 Road Safety Report, compiled by software-as-a-service fleet management solutions provider Webfleet.

The survey was conducted between June and August, gathering responses from 54 individuals representing 7 948 trucks operating in South Africa.

Telematics is the technology used to monitor a wide range of information relating to an individual vehicle or an entire fleet.

The systems gather data such as vehicle location, driver behaviour, engine diagnostics and vehicle activity, and visualise this data on software platforms that help fleet operators manage resources.

Netstar, Cartrack, MiX Telematics, Webfleet and Tracker are the biggest players in SA’s fleet telematics industry.

The latest study recorded a total of 1 313 collisions, an increase compared to last year, when 1 252 collisions occurred out of a total of 14 073 trucks.

Out of the 10 respondents who were worst affected, representing 87% of incidents, five stated most cases occurred between 10pm and 6am.

Respondents identified other drivers, poor road conditions and criminal activity as the most prevalent causes of incidents.

Keep on trucking

Over 80% of respondents said using a fleet telematics system is effective in reducing collisions, and half said the impact of this technology in preventing incidents is significant.

Some 29% said telematics moderately improved collision avoidance in the trucking sector.

“It [telematics] won’t necessarily stop other road users from causing accidents, but certainly, in the fleet space where we do have guys behind the wheel of a truck, it does change the way drivers behave,” says the report.

“Knowing you are being monitored automatically brings about improved driver behaviour and enhanced responsibility.”

Justin Manson, sales director at Webfleet SA, comments that telematics systems have become advanced, with a number of “add-ons” that can be used for accident prevention.

He notes these include advanced driver assistance systems, providing lane departure, tailgating and pedestrian warnings.

“Coupled with camera solutions, drivers will be warned when they are distracted, using their cellphone while driving, not wearing a seatbelt, eating or drinking while driving. These warnings could potentially prevent accidents, but it is still the drivers’ responsibility to use the warnings and take the necessary preventative actions.”

Manson adds that although telematics technology can quickly have a strong impact on a business, operators must always look at what they can do across all operations.

“Without proper training, maintenance of vehicles and policies designed for driver well-being, even the best digital tools have their restrictions and limits.”

Manson points out there are many benefits, depending on what the organisation is prepared to spend on.

“Solutions can vary from basic telematics, which can help to improve efficiencies, as well as provide driver behaviour-related data, which can be used to correct bad driving habits, to more advanced driver monitoring solutions that provide the driver with electronic job cards, including workflow management, route optimisation and navigation, including live traffic.

“More advanced systems can provide fuel and vehicle data, such as fuel consumption, increases and decreases in fuel levels, and DTCs [diagnostic trouble codes), which allow fleet operators to proactively manage maintenance.”

According to Manson, fleet telematics is becoming mainstream in SA, with Berg Insight reporting market penetration in 2021 was around 41% and is expected to grow to 68% by 2026.

“This is a very high market penetration rate compared to many other parts of the world, due to SA being a fairly mature market for fleet telematics.”

Barriers to entry

Manson says many organisations consider fleet telematics to be expensive. “Quite often, the value versus price discussion is not understood, and organisations do not see the full value a reputable telematics system can give them. ROI [return on investment] is a critical factor that any fleet operator should understand before deciding on a provider.

“Businesses often feel the technology is too complicated and that they would need to get specialists in to manage the systems. Over the last few years, this has become less of a barrier, with more tech-savvy people moving into decision-making positions within businesses that run fleets.”

When asked to name the biggest challenges faced in maintaining road safety, respondents identified road conditions (59.26%), driver behaviour (59.26%), compliance (44.44%) and cultivating a safety culture (31.48%).

Other factors included fatigue management (24.07%), driver training (24.07%), vehicle maintenance (22.22%), budget constraints (14.81%), technological limitations (5.56%) and criminality.

“You could distil these into two or three factors, as they address the same objectives,” Manson says. “For instance, without sufficient budget, an operator could not afford training, technology or substantial programmes that drive a culture of safety. Chasing profits often leads to more driver fatigue and greater risk of injury to road users.”

The most common method of measuring the effectiveness of road safety policies was the use of driver incident reports and analysis (72.22%), followed by driver behaviour monitoring through telematics or GPS tracking (66.67%). Vehicle maintenance and inspection records were used by 53.70%, vehicle collision data and analysis by 51.85%, and safety protocol and policy compliance by 50%.

Around 80% of respondents called for increased government funding for road infrastructure development and maintenance.

Additionally, 51.85% wanted to see improved road signage and markings, and 50% wanted enhanced driver education and licensing requirements.

To see the full report, click here.