• Putting the driver s through their paces.

  • Putting the driver s through their paces.

SCANIA SA continues to be a pacesetter among local vehicle manufacturers and distributors in the realm of its involvement with ongoing road safety initiatives.

The company is now involved in two driving skills competitions - one for local Scania contestants at Gerotek that started yesterday and runs until tomorrow, and as vehicle suppliers for the biennial World Professional Drivers Championship at Sun City from August 8 to10.

A record number of 1600 Scania drivers who underwent the company's official training during the past year were evaluated to find 30 people - 15 truck drivers and 15 bus drivers - to participate in the finals at Gerotek. A short list of the best performers in the original evaluation were then invited for further testing at clients' premises and at the Rea Vaya depot in Dobsonville before the list was brought down to 30.

Scania SA also assisted with the staging of driver contests in Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Malawi, and teams from these countries will participate in the competition at Sun City.

"The objective of our involvement in events such as our Driver of the Year competition is to improve the driving standards of the participants, not just to test their skills," said Scania SA area manager: promotions and communications, Gideon de Swardt. "We also want to encourage other Scania drivers to be motivated to qualify for the finals so they too can enjoy the benefits of having their abilities improved not just in the sphere of driving."

The training of the finalists will focus on defensive driving and the pre-trip inspection of the truck and trailer or bus with trainers from both Scania and Gerotek being used. The practical training will involve lane changing and emergency braking on the high speed oval, with the objective of avoiding jack-knifing.

There are some new aspects being included in this year's competition, including how to secure a load properly and extended aspects of health and safety. A doctor, trauma nurse and paramedic will instruct the finalists on what to do in emergency situations, including how to care for injured people at the site of a road accident. They will also provide advice on the subject of HIV/AIDS, which is a scourge in many parts of Africa, with direct impact on the transport industry. The important skill of fire fighting will again form part of the training.

The top 10 drivers - five in trucks and five in buses - will qualify for the final evaluations. This will consist of a pre-trip check where faults have been built into the vehicle and a series of practical driving tests.

After the local Scania Driver of the Year contest, the company's focus will switch to its role as a sponsor and vehicle supplier in the World Driver's Championship, which is being hosted by the Road Traffic Management Corporation at Sun City next month. This prestigious international event is staged every two years under the auspices of the Union Internationale de Chauffeurs Routiers, an organisation founded in 1957 by truck and bus drivers from France, Spain and Algeria. Its original objective was for drivers to look after each other on the road, especially in the case of a mishap.

It now acts as a co-ordinator and representative of the interests of professional drivers, while aiming to improve road and traffic safety and organising work-related education for its members. Headquartered in Switzerland, it makes annual awards to a Hero of the Road and a road transport company as well as arranging a driving contest every two years. The 2010 event was staged in Austria, where it attracted 135 competitors, and the 2008 championship took place in Luxembourg.

This will be the first time the event has been organised outside Europe. A South African team of 17 will take part in the event, as well as teams from Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Malawi.

There are five categories in the championships: light vehicle; medium vehicle; rigid freight carrier; truck-tractor with drawbar trailer; and a bus. Each national team can enter up to three drivers in each of the categories and each team has a non-competing leader.

The tests include one for fuel economy, where the driver, an assistant and an instructor will complete a 20km out-and-back route from Sun City.