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5 challenges South African fleets face (and how they're solving them)

5 challenges South African fleets face_Featured blog imageOperating a fleet in South Africa has some unique challenges that can catch the most experienced off-guard. Keep track of what’s happening in the industry to ensure you can adapt when needed. 

Fleet management is, by nature, a constantly changing task. Fleet managers know to plan for vehicle changes, scheduled downtime, new customer requirements and optimised routes, to name only a few.

For this reason, the fleet industry is resilient and flexible with advances in technology always offering new solutions to optimise fleet operations. These changes are part of the job and experienced fleet managers know how to plan ahead.

The real challenges lie in the unpredictable! As Forbes says, “We can never predict the future—but we can prepare for unpredictability by having the agility to always improve, and by positioning ourselves to make quick, intelligent pivots when the time comes.”  In South Africa, fleet managers are faced with a number of challenges that can’t be precisely mapped, but can be managed to reduce risk. 


1. Crime 

It’s a sad reality, but SA crime statistics are excessive and there is no indication that they will go down any time soon. Hijackings and vehicle or cargo theft is a daily risk, but there are measures you can put in place to reduce this risk.

Route planning: while it makes sense to always opt for the quickest route, it might not be the safest. It’s important to do a risk assessment that factors in everything from the types of vehicles on your fleet and the cargo they carry, to the areas they drive through and the time of day deliveries are expected.

In some cases, adjusting the delivery time is all you need to do to reduce your risk. Adjusting a route by a few kilometres may push up fuel costs and transport time, but if it dramatically reduces the risk of hijacking and theft it is likely a more cost-effective solution in the long run.

Vehicle Tracking: Should the worst happen fleet managers must have instant access to as much information as possible. A good tracking system will assist to ensure driver safety, collect all data needed for police and insurance information, and may even ensure the safe return of the vehicle. This is a must-have for any fleet operation in SA. 


2. Poor road conditions

Whether you’re running a small fleet in urban areas or transporting long-haul cargo, one of the biggest risk factors is poor road conditions. South Africa has a chronic pothole problem and very often these appear overnight, especially during the rainy season.

Potholes can cause wheel and suspension damage, and even serious accidents. Some roads are well-known for their potholes and it’s easy to either reroute or ensure drivers know how to drive in such situations. When road damage is new or unexpected, it helps to have a fleet management partner that either receives advanced warning or can help reroute at short notice.

In addition to potholes, there are many areas where road markings, signage and barriers have not been maintained. Again, it comes down to risk assessment and working closely with your fleet partner to find the safest routes for your business. 


3. Loadshedding

Loadshedding affects all sectors of the economy, but when you’re operating a fleet it becomes even more tricky.

Fleet managers must know the effects of loadshedding at their own premises, along all routes and at all delivery points. Loadshedding could make loading / unloading impossible or affect traffic to such an extent that certain shipments need to be delayed or prioritised. This becomes a massive juggling act, and that’s when loadshedding goes according to schedule!

As we’ve all learned one of the side effects of loadshedding is often a bit of unplanned ‘bonus’ loadshedding when substations trip due to power surges. This is completely unpredictable and has become a nightmare for local transporters.

The most effective solution is to carefully track all schedules and set up alerts for unplanned outages. Most professional fleet management companies work with a network of partners to plan around scheduled loadshedding and quickly reroute time-sensitive transports if unexpected power outages occur.

It’s frustrating, but the right fleet partner will help you optimise your fleet operations to reduce the impact of loadshedding as much as possible.


4. Poor vehicle maintenance

The local economy, poor road conditions, loadshedding, and a number of other factors has caused a dramatic decline in vehicle maintenance. Large, professional fleet companies still ensure their vehicles are properly maintained, but smaller businesses and many individuals can’t afford to keep their vehicles in prime condition.

While the argument is to always maintain your vehicles for safety reasons, the reality is that many cash-strapped South Africans simply can’t afford to do so.

This has further increased risk in the transport industry as more and more accidents are happening due to poorly maintained vehicles. This means fleet managers still ensure their own vehicles are maintained, but also plan for increased accident risk due to other vehicles not being fit for the road. This amplifies all the existing risk factors and must be considered when fleet routes and schedules are planned. 


5. Driver training

Driver training is the most important point on this list as it has a direct effect on all of the above-mentioned challenges. South Africa has a poor reputation for training drivers and this poses a constant risk to the transport industry.

Many companies choose to forego driver training as they don’t want to invest in drivers who might use that training to find work elsewhere. This is a very outdated perspective when you consider all the risks and challenges mentioned above.

The first solution to nearly every fleet challenge is expert driver training. Drivers who know how to avoid or mitigate hijack risk, how to take care of vehicles in poor conditions, focus on fuel efficiency and place safety above all else are invaluable.

Companies that invest in driver training always see a decrease in repair and fuel costs and an increase in reliability and on-time delivery. Even if a few drivers leave shortly after training, the financial loss is far less than suffering avoidable breakdowns, theft and accidents.

Investing in drivers and working with them to create incentives and reduce staff turnover is the first place to start when you need to reduce your fleet cost and risk. 



Managing a fleet will never be easy and South Africa has many transport challenges. That said, there are many solutions and ways to optimise your fleet operations and keep your business running as smoothly as possible. 


The fleet industry is resilient and flexible with advances in technology always offering new solutions to optimise fleet operations. Subscribe to our blog for regular updates.

South African fleet managers face many challenges to keep their operations running smoothly. Contact us to find out which solutions will best fit your fleet.

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