Tips for safe holiday driving from South African truckers

South African motorists taking on long distances this festive season could learn a thing or two about road safety from one group of frequent travellers — truckers.

The holiday period often sees a rise in road accidents and fatalities compared to the rest of the year, in part due to higher-than-usual volumes of traffic on the country’s highways and popular regional routes.

Few people understand the importance of being prepared and staying alert while on the road better than long-distance truck drivers.

City Logistics CEO Ryan Gaines said the finger was sadly often pointed at truck drivers as the cause of congestion or accidents.

“In reality, they are often some of the best trained, most experienced and safest drivers on the road when you consider the number of kilometres travelled during their careers, to the number of accidents,” Gaines said.

According to a 2019 BMJ study, South African truck drivers spent an average of 10 hours a day driving for 20 days out of the month.

City Logistics recently asked its truckers for their top tips to keep safe while traversing South Africa’s roads during the holidays.

Below are the four key recommendations they provided to help motorists and their families and friends stay safe on long-distance trips.

Plan (and charge) properly for the long haul

Truckers advise that proper preparation is vital to a safe journey.

That includes charging tech like smartphones and battery banks in advance, just in case you need either and don’t have electricity nearby, or your only stop is in the midst of load-shedding.

“Check that your phone charger and adapters work, and connect Bluetooth and hands-free devices — so you can keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel,” the truckers said.

Editorial credit: gonzstudio /

No more than four hours per drive

The truck drivers stressed that adequate rest and lots of breaks were essential.

They advised breaking up drives into four-hour sections, with an hour of rest between each stretch. 

This allows the driver to stretch their legs and carry out necessary car safety checks such as oil, water, tyre pressure, and checking on the secure attachment of anything being towed.

After an hour, the driver should be well-rested, revitalised and alert for the next leg of the journey.

The Automobile Association recommends a break every two hours or 200km, although it does not specify the length of the proposed break. 

The right farm stall provides an opportunity to rest and chow down on some good food to fill up on essential nutrients for the long haul. Editorial credit: Roger de la Harpe/

Keep your emergency contacts close

Gaines said most passenger vehicles don’t have panic buttons, which could result in emergency services taking longer to reach you in the case of an incident.

Therefore, it is important for loved ones to be informed of your travel plans and progress, and to save emergency contact numbers on your phone before hitting the road.

Several well-known and trusted personal safety apps offer built-in panic buttons to notify emergency services quickly that you are in distress.

These apps can provide private security and medical services with your GPS location.

You can also use some of them to allow loved ones to keep track of your location and phone’s battery status.

MultiChoice-owned Namola is one of several apps with built-in panic buttons.

Pack sugar-free “padkos”

The truck drivers also advised that keeping your energy levels up was essential.

They emphasised the importance of preparing and packing “padkos” — with recommended options being biltong, fruit, and plenty of water.

“Avoid snacks with high sugar levels, because this can create blood sugar and insulin spikes, resulting in a drop of energy,” they cautioned.

Many South Africans probably don’t need an excuse to eat biltong anyway.

Now read: Most fuel-efficient cars in South Africa — with prices

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Tips for safe holiday driving from South African truckers