Systems and standards support sustainability
Prof Claes Tingvall, Adjunct Professor at the Chalmers University of Technology

Compelling evidence exists that management systems based on specific ISO standards can yield tangible results in delivering sustainability goals.  According to Oliver Naidoo, Managing Director at JC Auditors, the implementation of such systems is an important driver of road transport safety.

“We have significant gaps when it comes to safety on our roads,” says Naidoo, indicating it was not only imperative to introduce systems to improve safety, but also to reduce the loss of life.

Addressing the Transport Forum recently, Naidoo said businesses used systems and processes to realise their sustainability goals – of which road safety is a part. “There are varying degrees of complexity, formality and efficiency of these systems, based on the context of the operating environment.” The adoption of the RTMS standard by the heavy vehicle sector has yielded notable benefits including overload reduction, improved vehicle safety, greater focus on driver health and wellness and perhap,s most significantly, a reduction in accidents and incidents.

In addition to RTMS adoption by fleet operators, ISO certification is also being increasingly implemented by those who wish to demonstrate their progressive quality, environmental and occupational safety performance. ISO certification is a common contractual obligation or mandatory requirement for a request for quotations (RFQs). “ISO 9001 for example is now a widely accepted entry-level requirement in certain sectors,” continues Naidoo. “These certifications provide comfort to the corporates that they are utilising reputable and professional partners, thereby extending their own high governance standards and protecting their brand.”

2030 goals

According to Claes Tingvall, Adjunct Professor at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, and an expert in vehicle engineering and autonomous systems, calls for improving road safety are on the rise. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contain two global targets on road safety:  one to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes and the second to improve road safety in the provision of access to transport systems. “The goal is by 2030, to provide safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport.”

Furthermore, says Tingvall, companies are encouraged to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle. “Elimination of deaths and serious injuries in road traffic is essential to many other sustainability goals in very direct and clear ways. Road traffic safety can no longer develop in isolation.”

According to Tingvall, SDGs have been widely endorsed and their achievement accepted by governments, corporations, and civil society. Tingvall, who also chairs a global academic expert group that lent its combined experience and expertise of global road safety issues to create a set of recommendations on how to reduce road deaths, says road safety must be prioritised by the public and private sectors following a safe system approach in all decisions - regardless of the size of an organisation.

Self-regulation drives change

Dr Paul Nordengen, Director at Heavy Vehicle Transport Technology Africa and a member of the Smart Truck National Steering Committee, says adherence to road transport and ISO management systems have proven beneficial to many organisations in the transport sector.

An advocate of Performance-Based Standards or PBS, which promotes safer, greener and efficient heavy vehicles in South Africa that was first launched in 2007, where heavy vehicles are designed according to how they perform against a set of safety standards.“We have seen many benefits including improved safety performance, transport productivity, reduced road wear per tonne kilometre, reduced carbon  emissions and vehicle trips, all of which has an overwhelming positive impact on the supply chain and ultimately the economy,” says Nordengen.

Benefits have also been seen by companies that have adopted the Road Transport Management System (RTMS), an industry-led self-regulation initiative. Addressing key challenges such as overloading, speeding, reckless driving and vehicle maintenance, the implementation of this management system has led to improved safety, reduced costs, and greater efficiencies.

According to Dr Christopher de Saxe from the Centre for Sustainable Road Freight at the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), whilst trucks provide a vital service to the economy, reducing the carbon footprint of heavy vehicle transport is a critical component of reaching sustainability goals. At present, however, they pose a difficult decarbonisation challenge. “Decarbonisation is a global necessity,” he explains. “At present, road freight accounts for around 50% of South Africa’s transport emissions. Solutions are, however, available, especially in the short term, which can make a difference. These include green tyres, which can ensure savings of up to 10%.”

Another option, he says, is the use of high-capacity vehicles (HCVs) or PBS vehicles to transport bulk commodities such as coal.