China has a high rate of fatal traffic accidents. The working conditions for professional drivers is one important reason for the country’s dismal road-safety figures. Scania’s focus on driver issues is particularly welcome as China works to change the situation.
According to WHO’s official statistics, nearly 100,000 people in China were killed in traffic accidents during 2009. Millions of others were hurt, and many suffered injuries that will affect them for life. Although the annual fatality rate has declined in recent years, the figures are still very high, due in part to overloaded trucks and poorly trained professional drivers.
“The biggest problem is that the authorities have not regulated drivers’ working hours,” says Mats Harborn, executive director of the Scania China Strategy Office. “Many serious accidents here in China occur because drivers have fallen asleep behind the wheel.
“Chinese authorities are making major investments aimed at improving road safety,” he explains. “But infrastructure issues are handled by several different decision-making bodies and unfortunately there is too little coordination between them.”
Scania Driver Competitions promote road safety
In keeping with Scania’s concept, Scania China focuses on the impact of drivers on transport economy, the environment and road safety. One step that Scania China has taken to help improve road safety has been to lower the comfort temperature in Scania’s truck cabs. A slightly lower temperature in the cab reduces the risk that a driver will fall asleep at the wheel.
In October 2010, Scania carried out its first-ever driver competitions in China, which attracted great attention. The purpose was to boost the status of drivers and generate greater interest in road safety issues among Chinese authorities, the transport industry and the public.
The national final took place late in October 2010 in Hangzhou, about 180 kilometres south-west of Shanghai. Zhong Weiping, editor of Commercial Motor World, one of China’s leading automotive magazines, was impressed by Scania’s focus on drivers.
“Scania’s view that the driver is the master of his truck is both exciting and much-needed here in China,” he says. “No other organisation is working to increase the professional skills of drivers, and I hope that Scania’s driver competitions will be an inspiration for further efforts.”
4 trends in China’s transport sector:
- The motorway network is expanding.
- There are stricter inspections to prevent overloaded trucks.
- Fuel economy is becoming more and more important.
- Private transport companies are increasingly demanding premium vehicles.
Source: Zheng Jing Fang, owner, Huzhou Xinda International Logistics
A caring future giant
With highly skilled drivers and Scania vehicles, Zheng Jing Fang intends to take a big step forward to become one of China’s logistics giants.
Huzhou Xinda International Logistics, headquartered a few dozen kilometres west of Shanghai, will assume a leading position in China in the next few years if the company’s owner, Zheng Jing Fang, gets his way. With its own harbour in the middle of the Yangtze River delta and several strategically important motorways nearby, Huzhou Xinda is well situated for success.
“To achieve our goal, we must take such concepts as quality and efficiency to a completely new level for China,” Zheng says. “With imported premium vehicles and better driver conditions than the rest of the industry, we can recruit and retain the best drivers. Too few transport companies have realised that it pays to invest in drivers here in China.”
Like so many other private hauliers, Zheng started his business under simple conditions, by hauling asparagus in a Jiefang Liberation, a small domestic truck. As the economy grew, he expanded his fleet and his business into what it is today, with imported Scania tractor units.
He now plans to seriously challenge the biggest logistics companies in China, which includes plans for building many new logistics centres around the country.
“Companies that don’t keep up with developments will disappear,” Zheng says.
This is where drivers enter the picture. The success of a haulier is determined behind the wheel.
“Skilled drivers may soon be completely crucial to revenue, which in turn requires a completely different management style,” he continues. “If you want to retain highly skilled drivers, you can’t treat them the way they are often treated today.”