Three weeks ago a truck ploughed into standstill traffic, killing three people, injuring more than 20 others and damaging 40 cars because of an alleged mechanical malfunction on the N12 near Alberton.
This accident, which has been described as one of the worst seen in Gauteng, has led to questions being asked about the roadworthiness of heavy duty vehicles that travel our roads daily.
Patrick O’Leary, publisher and editor of Fleetwatch magazine, has offered an insight into problems currently facing the trucking industry.
Just last week, Gauteng traffic police, pulled over an overladen truck carrying scrap metal after its brakes failed in Krugersdorp.
O’Leary said it was possibly the worst truck and trailer he had ever seen, and the perfect example of what is going on in the trucking industry.
“It is an absolute disgrace, everything was faulty, but this truck is just the tip of the iceberg, a very bad tip.”
It was a “death trap waiting to happen”, and it was just a matter of time until “we see” another accident such as the N12 crash, he said.
“At the bottom of the iceberg, it is completely rotten. You will find holes like they did in that trailer.”
O’Leary emphasised that although the issue was vast, many operators did keep a clean house.
The driver of the truck with trailer had to ram into the sidewalk repeatedly in an effort to slow down. It eventually stopped just before the N14 and R28 crossing which is infamous road accidents.
The driver who did not wanted to be named was on route from Gaborone, Botswana to Vereeniging to offload at a scrapyard said he was terrified when the brakes failed
“I was going to die, turned into the side walk to reduce speed, kept hitting into the side walk until I could stop,” the driver said.
However, he said he did not have a choice but to drive the truck, no matter what condition it was in as he had to take the risk to feed his family.
“Hustling for a job, my kids are suffering, I need to feed them. That is why I take the risk.”
The truck and trailer was tested and found to be unroadworthy and subsequently discontinued.
The trailer was worn out with visible makeshift welding jobs. Nuts and bolts were used in an effort to keep the overladen trailer from bursting at the seams.
Tests further found that the truck and trailer had no service or emergency brakes as well as being ten tons overweight.
The owner of the truck, Jan Greyling, who was present at the testing station while his rig was being tested, told The Citizen that it was obvious that the truck was not roadworthy, but that he had lost everything and needed to survive. He said he was putting money together for another trailer.
Greyling admitted that the possibility of the truck causing an accident and taking lives weighed heavy on his conscience but conceded that he was just trying to make a living.
“That is why I don’t sleep at night,” said Greyling.
Officials have said this truck was just one of the many unroadworthy vehicles that were “accidents waiting to happen”.
Gauteng traffic police spokesperson Busaphi Nxumalo admitted that they were facing a major problem with most trucks unable to pass roadworthy tests.
She added, however, that officials were “intensifying operations” to root out the rot in the industry.
The Road Traffic Management Corporation’s (RTMC) did not respond questions by deadline.