The Call to Action went out from FleetWatch and was answered by some 350 truckers and suppliers who arrived at the Shongweni Truck, Car and Outdoor Show ready and willing to make a difference to South Africa’s horrendous road safety record. “We have to take things into our own hands and lead South Africa into a new era of road safety,’ was the call to which the trucking industry responded. FleetWatch lifts its hat to each and every person who attended.
With only around two months to arrange what we wanted to be the largest gathering of truck operators yet seen in this country, we were nervous’¦very nervous.
The urgency came from the fact that a venue came up which seemed ideal to stage an event FleetWatch had been determined to hold for some time. It didn’t leave us much time to get it all together.
The motivation though had been long coming. The mayhem of on-going accidents, deaths, carnage, broken bodies and shattered families had built up a rising tide of anger and it had been building up for years.
The death toll on South Africa’s roads now totals 15 000 every year , and its not getting any better. That’s 15 000 families left shattered , children left without mothers or fathers, mothers and fathers left without children. Let’s put it into perspective to show the craziness of the situation.
Since the Iraq war began on March 19th 2003, the number of US soldiers killed in that war totals 4 421. Over that same period of time, some 120 000 South Africans have been killed in the most violent manner on our roads. That’s 115 579 more people killed on our roads than American soldiers killed in the Iraq war. Think of it!
The irony is that South Africa is not at war. We don’t call it a war. We simply let our people die in peace-time. ‘˜May he/she rest in peace’ is very true for South Africa. Good Grief! It’s insanity!
South Africa has failed its citizens when it comes to road safety. We have all failed. The Government has failed; the traffic authorities have failed; business has failed; the public has failed. South Africa has blocked its mind to the fact that we are in a war zone and our roads have become the killing fields of South Africa. We are at war with ourselves. How stupid is that? Mass suicide!
Our Brake & Tyre Watch results show that out of 330 trucks tested for roadworthiness in 14 projects around the country, 220 trucks failed the roadworthy tests and were taken off the road. That’s a 66% failure rate which is enough to get the most sceptical of us steamed up. And believe me when I say some of the trucks that failed were in the most horrendous state of unroadworthiness.
Yes, we know there are some great companies operating out there. We also know who they are but those same companies which are admirably operating to best practise standards are having to share the roads with hundreds of trucks whose owners don’t give two hoots about best practise.
They are also operating in the killing fields as evidenced by the fact that according to the N3TC, the average percentage of heavies in the traffic mix on the N3 is 32% but 45.3% are involved in crashes. A recent accident on the N3 saw four trucks involved , three of them from ‘˜reputable’ companies. One driver died. It was apparently all due to one of those Zambian wrecks chugging along the road. It’s everybody’s problem.
But let’s leave the numbers because it’s not about large or small numbers. It’s about the number ‘˜one’. We have to put all our energy, skills and resources into saving the live of that ‘˜one’ person. And this is where a change of ‘˜attitude’ comes into the picture. And that is what the Call to Action was all about.
Most important is that while the central theme of A Call to Action revolved around road safety, the call also went out to elevate the trucking industry onto its rightful platform of importance, both in the eyes of Government and the general public. For too long this sector has been afforded Cinderella status, despite the critical role in plays in the economy. That too must change , and must change now!
Any organisation which holds a function will want it to be a success , and even if it’s not, will state it as being so. However, the feedback FleetWatch has had from delegates tells that it was a success. It also tells that the timing was right and that people in this industry are willing to change things for the better.
FleetWatch will be driving this initiative forward with the help of our partners and many friends in the industry. There are good things to come. Watch this space.
Footnote: A Call to Action song commissioned by FleetWatch was launched at the event with the intention of getting it adopted as a national road safety rallying call. It was an instant hit with all the delegates as well as with the MEC of Transport, Community Safety and Liaison for KZN, Mr Willis Mchunu, who wants it spread far and wide. We’re working on it.
Behind the scenes… long hours, late nights and many hands… worth the effort!