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Death on the road – the sorry tale of SA’s unroadworthy trucks

Hino South Africa sponsored the first joint Brake & Tyre Watch event for truck operators, Hino dealers and a large number of Hino SA staff at the Donkerhoek traffic control centre, east of Pretoria, recently. Although this was the 34th occasion that road safety champion Patrick O’Leary and his FleetWatch team had staged a Brake & Tyre Watch roadside safety check, it was the first time the event had been concentrated on one truck brand and its people.

Death on the road – the sorry tale of SA’s unroadworthy trucks
Hino guests and officials at the Brake & Tyre Watch at the Donkerhoek traffic control centre.

The high accident and death rate in South Africa – on average, 43 people die on the country’s roads every day – is to be expected when one hears that the statistics obtained in FleetWatch’s Brake & Tyre Watch examinations over the past 10 years have revealed a failure rate of 68%, with 485 trucks being declared unroadworthy out of 679 trucks tested.

At the Donkerhoek event, Paul Nordengen, of the CSIR and SA Road Federation, said that a recent survey in Mozambique had shown that 80- 90% of the trucks were operating in an overload condition, with the maximum overload reported being a massive 53 tons.

He added that operating a truck on bad roads could more than double maintenance and repair costs. The roads and transport expert warned that matters were going to get far worse as the amount of freight moved globally, using all modes of transport, was expected to increase 4,3 times between 2010 and 2050.

Death on the road – the sorry tale of SA’s unroadworthy trucks
This is what a retreaded tyre looks like when the tread tears away from the carcass.

Nordengen is a strong protagonist for the use of the Road Transport Management System (RTMS) to selfgovern transport operations, and he was pleased to see that 200 fleets operating 10 000 trucks were now RTMS accredited. He said case studies of RTMS fleets showed amazing improvements in terms of running and maintenance costs, as well as a far lower accident rate resulting from using the correct RTMS procedures.

Nordengen bemoaned the fact that low levels of law enforcement in South Africa meant that probably only about 5% of trucks on the road were involved in interactions with law enforcers during a year, while he estimated that up to 40% of trucks on South African roads were non-compliant.

George Hartman, of BPW Axles, said that the high cost of road accidents in SA were due to two major factors: the driver and poor vehicle maintenance, while he also laid part of the blame at the door of ineffective law enforcement.

According to Hartman, a new law coming into force next year would cause havoc in the road transport industry. This was the requirement that the identical make and size of tyre be fitted to each side of an axle.

Hartman added that he had already seen as many as five different tyres fitted to a truck. Steve Norris, a field engineer with Bridgestone, gave an interesting talk on the importance of fitting the correct tyres to transport rigs and ensuring that the correct tyre pressures were maintained.

Kathy Bell, of the Vehicle and Asset Finance Division of Standard Bank, said her company was particularly supportive of companies that were RTMS compliant as it meant their vehicles were a lower risk and would be in better condition when they were resold or traded in.

Death on the road – the sorry tale of SA’s unroadworthy trucks
Johan van der Merwe of Wabco explains brake system technology to De Wet Muller of Bidvest Foods, Greg Govender of Bidvest Foods, Ernie Trautmann, Vice President of Hino SA, and Pieter Klerck, GM at Hino SA.

Arrie Meyer, a man with 25 years’ experience in law enforcement and currently the person responsible for operating the brake roller tester at the Donkerhoek test centre, said it was time to reconsider all aspects of the SA Road Traffic Regulations as some of them dated back to 1957.

Meyer said another problem was that the prescribed test procedures and equipment used were not up to testing the latest technological advances in automotive engineering. Ernie Trautmann, Vice President of Hino SA, concluded the days’ proceedings by committing his company to continuing with road safety initiatives.

Tristan Wiggill
Special Features Editor at Business Fleet Africa