For the first time since 2005 when we started Brake & Tyre Watch, we had a bank join us as a partner. Kathy Bell, Head: Transport Solutions, Specialised Finance for Standard Bank Vehicle and Asset Finance, was with us in Polokwane and we asked for her impressions and comments. Here is what she has to say.
Alarm bells or clarion moments
With the imminent implementation of AARTO in April next year, it is woefully clear that without effective enforcement of excellent legislation, this too will be a potential cesspit of mismanagement which will impact on transport operators with disastrous consequences.
Firstly, it is evident that the necessary training of the process of enforcement has been haphazard at best and without this FleetWatch intervention, non-existent as a worse case scenario. The potential for bribery and corruption was almost tangible on the day. Some operators came to the testing station when their units were pulled off and were quite keen to “pay a fine’ or suggested the Officers should “give me a warning and let my truck/trailer finish the delivery.’
The process of testing takes too long due to the poor layout of the testing station which required some excellent driving skills at times to move 56 tons around a very tight and awkward testing ground.
Secondly, some of the experienced drivers were surprised that their units had been pulled off as they have operated in the Polokwane area for several years and have never been “stopped or checked’ by Traffic Officers. In essence, this process seemed to be a nuisance to them and was not seen as a serious long term enforcement programme to be taken seriously – rather a “once off’ and then things could go on as usual. Let’s hope not.
Thirdly, what struck me as another “alarm bell’ on the day was poor compliance from some of the trailer manufacturers. In spite of the SANS standard on automatic slack adjusters (since 2004), trailers that were only a few months in operation were fitted with manual slack adjusters and not even aligned correctly, resulting in poor operation and potential failure of a critical component in time.
Bells of clarity or ‘˜ahaha’ moments
The team from Brake and Tyre Watch – including the team from CSIR that assisted with the weigh bridge process – are highly motivated and very efficient.
Some of the Traffic Officers were keen to learn and apply their new skills and clearly benefitted from the first day of theory and the next day of practical enforcement.
The check lists were a huge aid and guideline and were critical to writing up the applicable violations. The response from some of the drivers was equally encouraging.
Many confirmed that they check their units before and after loading and that great effort is made to have a safe truck and a safe load driving on our roads.
The scary bell moments
A truck loaded with stones, no tarp and a COF and licence that expired in 2000! The cab was a mess of note and the ignition hung on the floor!
The other scary moment was an Operator with a valid COF dated within the previous two weeks but with “shot’ tyres that had big chunks taken out and not adhering to minimum tread depth! This would suggest that new tyres are used to get the truck through the testing stage and then a swap is made back to unroadworthy tyres!
For years I have read FleetWatch and each time have noted with shock and horror – as I sat in my air-conditioned office looking at the photos – the chances that some transport operators take, at huge risk to themselves and other road users.
The fact that the Brake and Tyre Watch project is done under the hot blazing sun in 30 degrees plus heat with dust, diesel fumes and fuming transgressors all around, has never been appreciated by me and has made this initiative all the more pioneering and critical!
In my role as a specialist in our business unit, I undertake site visits to assess the operations/depots etc. of our clients as part of feedback into the credit evaluation process. I believe this initiative of FleetWatch has proved to be valuable and has reinforced the need for verifying at the outset of our process, our operators’ daily, weekly checking and fixing maintenance programmes!
Well done FleetWatch and partners!