Whether your fleet consists of two vehicles or two thousand, any goods-carrying vehicles are constantly at risk of being hijacked.
The risk of hijacking is a nasty reality that fleet managers and drivers are aware of at all times. In South Africa, the threat simply increases each year with few signs that it’s likely to be contained any time soon. It’s therefore up to companies to ensure they do everything possible to protect their drivers, vehicles and goods.
Consider the following points that were raised at last year’s Insurance Institute of South Africa (IISA) Forum:
Hijackings have cost the South African economy nearly R3 billion over the past few years
In 2015 more than 1 279 transport vehicles were hijacked
805 of these were hijacked in Gauteng
The loss of vehicles and goods, not to mention the risk to drivers, is a massive concern for any company. The good news is that there are many steps fleet managers can take to reduce this risk. Here's how to keep your fleet hijack proof:
What fleet managers and companies can do:
- Stay on top of hijack trends and hijack proof driving. It’s difficult, but resources such as Arrive Alive and the National Hijack Prevention Academy update their facts as often as possible.
- Attend anti-hijacking courses annually. Even if you’re not a driver, attending these courses keeps you up to speed and aware of what can be done from a management side. It’s also a great networking opportunity and any fleet manager will benefit from having good contacts in the local hijack-prevention industry.
- Invest in tech: vehicle tracking and monitoring technology is the best way to prevent incidents, and also the most effective way of dealing with incidents when they happen. Advanced telematics allows you to:
- Track all vehicles in real-time, which means you can spot any unauthorised movements or prolonged stops as they’re happening.
- Monitor vehicles in real-time when they are in high risk areas.
- Drivers have access to panic buttons that will instantly alert the fleet manager, police and even private security companies, depending on your setup.
- Print out / customise Hijack Prevention Guidelines for all drivers.
- Quick reaction from emergency services, because you catch incidents immediately.
- Higher rate of vehicle recovery, especially if you continually upgrade your tech to ensure it’s difficult to remove or deactivate.
- Many hijackers are experts in their ‘field’ and they will know to avoid companies with a reputation for employing top-notch anti-hijacking methods.
What drivers can do:
- Attend regular anti-hijacking courses. If your company doesn’t offer these, make sure you request regular training.
- Stay on top of hijack trends (even more so than fleet managers), so you know what to watch out for and when you’re in a high risk area or situation. The same resources as those mentioned above apply: Arrive Alive and the National Hijack Prevention Academy.
- Know that you are always at risk - no matter how many years you’ve been a driver without falling prey to hijackers, it can happen at any time. This is why it’s crucial to attend courses, be extremely aware of hijack trends, and always be ready to react in the correct manner.
- Know your technology. Drivers need to ensure they understand exactly how the telematics and anti-hijack systems work in the vehicles they’re operating. You don’t want to be caught in a situation where you’re driving a new vehicle and don’t know where the panic button is in the middle of a crisis. In many cases your phone can also be linked to the system, and drivers need to know how this works.
- Know your checklists and emergency numbers. When it comes to hijacking, drivers need to ensure their own safety. If your company does not provide anti-hijack checklists or emergency numbers, make sure you request these. But if they’re slow in responding, don’t wait around. Make sure you have all relevant emergency numbers on your phone and printed out to keep in the vehicle. Print out / summarise your own Hijack Prevention Guidelines to keep with you, no matter where you work.
Whilst there are universal guidelines for preventing and dealing with hijackings, it’s vital for fleet managers and drivers to realise that every situation is different. The type of vehicle you drive, the routes you take, the cargo you’re carrying, and the systems installed in the vehicle will all play a role in your risk profile as well as how you deal with a hijack situation. Fleet managers and drivers need to work together to ensure their Hijack Prevention Guidelines are up to date and applicable to their specific needs.
Below is a summary of the Hijack Prevent Guidelines found on the Arrive Alive website. These are perfect to use as a basis for your own guidelines and checklists:
HOW TO AVOID A HIJACK SITUATION:
Approaching and entering a premises:
- Be extra alert 2km from your stop. Switch off the radio and concentrate on your surroundings. If you have noticed any vehicle behind you, use the techniques you have learned during the hijack prevention & survival course to determine whether you are being followed.
- Remember to stop your vehicle just on the inside of the gate and select reverse whilst waiting for the gate to close. This creates confusion and may buy you a few seconds for the gate to close completely behind you.
- Check the street before you leave or enter a premises.
Parking your vehicle:
- Check rear-view mirror to ensure you are not being followed.
- When exiting the vehicle, be cautious and aware of surrounding obstructions and shrubbery that may be concealing a hijacker.
- Never sit in your parked vehicle without being conscious of your surroundings. Sleeping in a stationary vehicle is particularly dangerous.
Whilst entering your vehicle and while driving, the following should be considered:
- Have your key ready, but not visible.
- Inspect the outside and inside of the vehicle before unlocking. Check underneath your vehicle for items placed under the wheels. Also make sure nobody is hiding on the passenger side before you enter your vehicle. (As explained during the hijack prevention & survival course)
- Know your destination and directions to it; and be alert should you get lost.
- Always drive with your windows closed and doors locked.
- Make a mental note of any Police Stations in the vicinity.
- When stopping behind another vehicle, leave half a vehicle length in front of your vehicle to make an emergency escape if necessary.
- Avoid driving through high crime or unfamiliar areas.
- NEVER, EVER pick up hitchhikers or strangers. (VERY IMPORTANT)
- Never follow routine routes when driving; change on a regular basis.