The two major events in the life of a vehicle are when it is commissioned into service and its final scrapping. Everything in between is a cumulative and classifiable series of major or minor incidents as the wheels roll.

Here lies the challenge to South African fleet management - do not start with the financial issues but rather the management of incidents. A management issue that does not have a numerical value as a base of reference cannot be measured. If it is not measurable it cannot be managed.

Workshop audits have revealed the lack of incident recording on vehicles and equipment to provide the numbers of incidents instead of the cash values only. Cents per kilometre (CPK) is the result of well managed incidents - as the medical specialist said to his patient, 'Let us treat the cause and not the symptoms'.  

Cumulative incident recording, in real time frames, is not just a good principle for controlling CPK but essential to risk management. The emphasis must be on real time recording for feedback to supervisors, drivers, and technicians so that corrective results will take place through the action of motivated people. It is not sufficient to manage safety, accident, theft, hijacking, injury, or death incidence within a fleet on the pot of money spent by financial year end on premiums and excesses. The people in the organisation need immediate feedback on how they are doing and what they can do.

Managing transport people with the price on an invoice is not effective. Cumulative incidents for which the invoices were responsible are the only record and basis for behavioural change. Many fleet owners experience headcount as a major cost item, and industrial relations must be managed through the measured daily actions of people - not just on cost generation.

If everything on wheels and in the workshop is managed and discussed in monetary terms only, then it is inevitable that a transport operation will become the victims of the financial manager – accountants take charge by default of lack of incident recording.

Experience shows that one of the hardest calculations to make for a SA transporter are total downtime losses. This is due to the absence of a cumulative incidents log that attaches to a vehicle, group of vehicles, a route or type operation that can be converted into monetary terms. There are no cash flows in vehicle downtime, only loss of productivity. When wheels do not turn there are no incidents to record and no consumption of operating expenses.

Incident recording provides the basis for training that meets the needs of the operation as training must focus on the priorities indicated. If training time is too precious to waste where will the guidance arise?  In poor economic conditions there are too few people to train, and when the wheels are fully utilised, we are too busy to be trained. Training can only be effective on immediate quantifiable feedback on the incidents that have caused the issues at stake - measurement is the tool.

Safety critical issues must rank high on the list of incident measurement. It is a good starting point for managing risks. It is risky to be unaware of the issues around the Occupation Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and why braking equipment and tyres are failing or suffer from premature life.

The only way to check the annual demands of insurance companies and the rise of premiums is by way of risk management reporting on incident ratios that cover fleet in terms of losses experienced and risk\loss controlled but not suffered. All these must be measured and managed within time frames of night or day, season, location, and circumstances. This is what we do at Key Hire.

Transport is not just a truck business with cash flows - it is a people business whose daily activities can be measured in the workshops, behind the steering wheel, in the admin department, and most importantly, how a customer is treated. Measured incidents are translated into the meaningful direction that people seek in their everyday lives. It changes the conversation between management and staff.

For more details, please contact Hennie Botha at or at 031 713 3111.