I am sure by now most of our readers would have heard of the tragic incident where one of the two giraffes being transported in a trailer on the N1 hit its head on an overhead bridge near Centurion and died as a result of the injuries sustained. The story immediately went viral and was widely picked up – not only locally but internationally with many overseas media running the story, including the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia as well as the Mail Online in the UK. This all served to raise the ire of the public and understandably so since it was a highly emotive incident which should never have happened. Some of the comments on the FleetWatch Facebook page were:
- “I’ve been feeling sick about this since I first heard about it. I can’t believe that neither the people who were sending these giraffes away nor the people receiving them didn’t care enough to plan the route and anticipate the potential dangers.” – Caro Outhwaite, America
- “Tragic! Shocking! Unacceptable! I am shocked and cannot believe that ‘intelligent’ human-beings with so-called ‘brains’ can transport giraffes in an open-trailer on the highway with bridges! It is a disgrace! I blame everybody involved in this operation – there is no excuse for stupidity!” – Gerhard Meyer, South Africa
- “Game transport is heavily specialised. I know a guy in the EC that bought a truck and rigged it with cameras specifically to monitor the animals. It helps that he is a qualified vet too. Knocking any part of your vehicle or load against anything is illegal and idiotic. This should NOT have happened. Period.” – Jan-George Kilian, professional truck driver.
- “No words – or lots of! This is not how you transport these animals and the fact that the truck broke down as well! I hope that both the “owner” and the transporter are prosecuted!” – Lorraine Minnaar Wilcken, South Africa
- “Shocking and totally unnecessary!” – Ted Hughes, South Africa
And this is just a small example of the reaction of people to the incident. There were thousands more from all around the world posted on various social media. For those who witnessed it, it was very traumatic. Although not knowing all the facts, one thing I do know is that the vehicle should not have been on that route. When carrying goods on trucks in South Africa – no matter what the load, be it chocolates, steel, bricks or giraffes – one must adhere to certain prescribed laws and regulations pertaining to the maximum allowable vehicle dimensions such as height, width and length of vehicle. The maximum height allowed is 4,3m as prescribed in Regulation 224 (b). Anything above that, application has to be made via the Provincial Traffic Departments for an abnormal load permit. With that application, a route map and survey has to be submitted showing the intended route to be travelled. This ensures, for example, that the load will not hit into bridges, telephone wires, power-lines and the like. Based on the load and the route, one might also need escort vehicles.
A giraffe is the tallest land mammal known and a male giraffe can be up to 5,5 meters tall. Female giraffes can reach a height of 4.3m – exactly the maximum permissible height allowed under the law for the transport of goods. Given this, it would be prudent to take extra care in getting the overall height correct, especially when one also has to add the extra height of the floor of the trailer to the ground. I read one report where the transporter in question stated they had safely travelled under a number of bridges before that one and the giraffe “craned” its neck. That doesn’t hold water.
Although there is no specific section in the Road Traffic Act relating to the transportation of animals, there is a South African National Standard – SANS 1884 – which outlines ‘standards’ for the transportation of wild herbivores. The standard is headed ‘Holding pens for temporary housing of animals’ and Part 2 of this is headed: ‘Vehicles for the transportation of wild herbivores by road to holding pens and other facilities.’ A reference is made in section 188.8.131.52 of the Standard to the maximum height, width and length of mass crates which “shall comply with the national road ordinances”. It also states that “special permits for abnormal heights and widths may be obtained from Provincial Traffic Departments.” It’s all there and as FleetWatch has so often stated in the past, we have the legislation in place. What we don’t have is full and non compromising compliance to the legislation along with strict and non compromising enforcement of that legislation. By paying attention to the detail, this transporter – who I am sure is totally remorseful of his actions – would have prevented the death of that giraffe and the accompanying heartache and agony. Short cuts are not the way to go in transport. ‘Best Practice’ is what the Road Transport Management System – now being adopted by many companies – proposes and is what FleetWatch constantly advocates for the industry across the board. Which brings me to the above headline on this article…
C’mon – admit it. You have been looking all through this comment for details of the 15 000 giraffes that are killed on our roads every year. Here’s the truth. It’s nonsense. It’s not true but I bet it caught the eye more than if I had written ‘15 000 people killed on our roads every year’ – as we have stated so often in the past. If only we could have the same outrage and wide-spread condemnation by the public of the 15 000 human deaths on our roads every year as we have seen with the death of one giraffe, we will start getting somewhere with curbing the carnage. On the same day as that poor giraffe died, 43 people were killed on our roads – that’s the average number of people who die in road accidents in South Africa every day. FleetWatch has always worked on the ‘power of one’. One death is one too many. The death of this one giraffe is one too many. When will the day arrive when the death of one person will be one too many?