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The convenience of e-commerce transactions during and following the upheavals of Covid has catalysed South Africa's embrace of online retail and fuelled a substantial contribution to heightened activity within the nation's freight and logistics sector. As reported by Mordor Intelligence, the industry's 2023 value of R402 billion has a projected upward growth trajectory to around R590 billion by 2029.

Grocery delivery services have expanded in response to growing demand. According to Statista, the number of users of grocery delivery services is expected to reach 7.8 million by 2028. This in turn adds more vehicles, including motorcycles, onto SA roads.

Paired with South Africa’s predisposition to vehicle and fleet crime, the escalation in the presence of delivery vehicles on our roads has given rise to an elevation in hijacking incidents. Criminal elements are increasingly focusing their attention on courier and logistics vehicles involved in the transportation and delivery of goods purchased online.

According to Tracker’s Vehicle Crime Index (VCI), which aggregates information from the company’s more than 1.1 million subscribers, hijackings still dominate at a national level, accounting for 55% of all national vehicle crime incidents, with business-owned vehicles almost twice as likely to be hijacked than stolen. This also compromises the safety of drivers, off the back of cargo and vehicle losses suffered on the part of fleet managers and logistics businesses.

Fleet managers in South Africa should consider a combination of options within their overall solution to combatting vehicle and cargo crime and keeping their drivers safer.

Telematics tracking, paired with stolen vehicle recovery services have traditionally formed the cornerstone toolkit for fleet managers concerned about business vehicle crime. The increasing sophistication of vehicle-related crime, however, and the violent nature of this crime enacted upon drivers, prompts a re-examination of priorities.

It is not unusual, for instance, that cargo can be more valuable, and more desirable in criminal circles than the transportation vehicle itself, thus the escalation in opportunistic business vehicle hijackings that compromise the safety of drivers. Not only is it necessary for fleet managers to have line of sight of, and recoverability services for cargo trailers, and asset tracking of high-value freight items, but also driver safety must be factored into an overall fleet solution.

Additionally, SA’s challenged road network is proving to be an additional and substantial factor in overall logistics considerations when it comes to driver safety. Not only have trucks replaced trains on long-haul routes due to decaying rail infrastructure, resulting in more heavy-duty vehicles and their drivers exposed to criminal elements, but these same drivers are also increasingly exposed to the probability of accidents occurring on their routes.

Fleet management tips and tools

Below are some additional fleet management tools and tips that can help ensure the safety of drivers and vehicles, and the preservation of cargo.

Use the geofencing feature on telematics platforms to demarcate safe or unsafe zones for your fleet of vehicles. If a vehicle leaves a safe zone, or enters an unsafe zone, a notification will alert you to the possible danger.
Consider the installation of AI dash cameras to your fleet. Not only can this give you a remote view of both road and in-cab activity via a managed live look-in service, but the camera’s AI technology can help mitigate vehicle theft by monitoring facial recognition and can help prevent accidents by monitoring driver behaviour such as drowsiness or excessive speeding by alerting both the driver and fleet manager.
Sign up to a service through your vehicle tracking service provider or insurer that delivers armed guards to your driver’s exact location within minutes whenever a roadside emergency arises. Whether involved in an accident or dealing with a tyre blowout or breakdown, your driver, your vehicle, and your cargo will benefit from an armed guard, who will wait with your driver until he has been assisted and is back on the road again.  

An in-cab assist button is a handy feature that facilitates an alert to Fleet Managers from a driver, prompting a call-back. This feature functions in conjunction with the telematics unit and does not rely on the driver having a cell phone or available airtime when requiring assistance.

A journey-sharing feature is helpful to track drivers and keep an eye on their progress and route. If the route deviates from plan, or if journey progress stalls, steps can be taken to ascertain the safety of the driver, vehicle and cargo and initiate assistance if required.

Ensure vehicles are regularly and optimally maintained to avoid engine or tyre problems en route. A breakdown creates a vulnerable situation for both driver and cargo. Use a telematics platform that offers a maintenance planning and scheduling feature to ensure optimal maintenance and fleet up-time.

Plan routes in advance, share these with somebody who can keep tabs on progress and vary routes if driving regularly between the same origin and destination.

Vehicle and cargo safety

In addition to a strong focus on driver safety, here follow a few additional points for consideration around vehicle and cargo safety in relation to current business vehicle crime trends.

Tracking and theft retrieval is not just for vehicles, but motorcycles and trailers also. Ensure that your fleet tracking and recovery solution takes these into account.

If your vehicle features keyless entry via the use of a fob, a Faraday pouch is recommended for your driver to store the fob when the vehicle is parked. Relay entry attacks are becoming common place. These attacks involve a criminal discreetly following a driver when the vehicle is parked, as collections or deliveries are executed. When within range of the driver, the fob signal can be amplified to a criminal counterpart waiting at the vehicle in the street or parking lot, who can then open and start the vehicle and drive away in a matter of seconds, along with any merchandise in transit.

“The degree of technological innovation from reactive to proactive and then pre-emptive vehicle tracking has impacted positively on driving down the rate of vehicle crime, yet criminal syndicates have also become more resourceful and highly sophisticated,” says Duma Ngcobo, Chief Operating Officer at Tracker. “Tracker encourages businesses to heed the escalation in business vehicle-related crime and to adopt proactive behaviours that could help mitigate vehicle theft, cargo theft and above all protect drivers,” he concludes.