Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Zambian Truck Driver Program Working to Save Lives

NGO Assistance Helps Improve Safety
Shipping News Feature
ZAMBIA – It’s not uncommon to hear people in the West bemoaning the restrictions placed upon them by health and safety regulations. All too often it seems that all consideration for common sense has been discounted and that legislation is imposed by bureaucrats as much to tie everything up in red tape as for any proper purpose, but when one sees the counter wise situation where people are not protected by proper controls the cost can be shocking.

43-year-old Albert Banda knows only too well what that cost can be. An accident devastated his family when his cousin was injured in a crash. A Lusaka-bound Zambia-Malawi bus collided head-on with a truck and 34 people died.

Speaking of his own experiences as a long distance truck driver, Albert spoke of how poorly trained drivers and potentially dangerous lack standards are to all road users. He said:

“A friend trained me for a week and then I got my licence. [Back then] speed and space, for me, was not as issue. I came to realise later that I wasn’t doing the right things.”

Drivers in Zambia are expected to work for long hours and make quick returns from trips, making lack of rest an issue. Truck drivers may drive across borders for up to 19 hours a day and be away for weeks at a time. They put their lives at risk due to the dangerous conditions of the roads, and are targeted for the theft of goods. Bus drivers are also pushed to their limits with lengthy days and quick returns. A bus driver could leave at 4am in the morning, drive until 9pm, then be expected to return at 4am the next day.

But Albert is working to change this situation with the assistance of Transaid, a charity that assists with training programmes in the developing world. He now works as a driver trainer at the Professional Driver Training programme at the Industrial Training Centre Trust (ITC) in Lusaka, Zambia and has trained hundreds of truck drivers to a standard that radically improves their awareness and safety. He has also contributed the Zambian Road Safety Agency’s National Driver Training Syllabus and Highway Code.

“I never saw myself becoming what I am right now. I have come to realise that it’s through such programmes like this that you’re able to make an impact in society. It makes me feel good. When I see my name on the syllabus, I feel important,” he added.

The opportunity also inspired him to start a Bachelor of Science course in logistics and Transport Management, which he attends seven days a week, after his full-time work as a trainer has ended.

Albert’s work at an individual and national level is changing the face of road safety in his country and he is proud of the opportunity Transaid created for him.

“With this [Transaid-facilitated training], I’ve been able to become what I am. I’ve learnt a lot in terms of knowledge and skills, and the income has really helped.”