Limpopo Province needs a big wake-up when it comes to traffic enforcement. While there were some traffic officials out of the 120 present who were keen to learn from the experts on our Brake & Tyre Watch project, there were many who just couldn’t wait to get out of there. However, that didn’t stop us from imparting valuable knowledge to those keen to accept it and from taking 10 of the 11 vehicles tested off the road writes Patrick O’Leary.
Long time readers of FleetWatch will know by now of our Brake & Tyre Watch project for we have reported on it since it started back in 2005. However, for those who might not be familiar with it, here’s a quick run down.
What it entails in essence is that FleetWatch and its partners set off periodically for different provinces with the prime objective being to train traffic officials to spot signs of unroadworthiness on trucks and to raise the awareness of operators around the subject.
In terms of training the cops, this is a two day exercise with day 1 being theoretical training conducted by experts from our partner companies followed by a day of practical training where trucks are taken off the road and are put over a pit and brake roller tester for testing and inspection. The cops are divided into teams with each team having a team leader expert from one of our partner companies leading them through the faults.
Obviously by reporting in FleetWatch on the transgressions and faults found on the trucks, we also want operators to learn from the mistakes of others and to avoid repeating those mistakes. Through awareness, we as a team strive to raise standards among all truck operators. It’s all positive stuff – except to some of the operators whose trucks are impounded , and to date we have conducted 11 such exercises in eight different provinces and trained over 600 traffic officials.
Unfortunately though, the same positive sentiment cannot be aimed at the state of trucks on our roads. Out of a total of 258 trucks inspected and tested to date, no less that 162 have been served with Discontinuation of Service notices.
In other words, 63% of the 258 trucks tested were taken off the road during these exercises. That is an horrendously high figure and it needs to change , and that is what FleetWatch and its partners are trying to do. Change things for the better out there.
In Polokwane, we took 11 trucks off the road for inspection and testing and 10 were served with Discontinuation of Service notices. In addition, four of these were also fined for overloading.
Leadership and discipline
The Limpopo project was an interesting one in that it proved what FleetWatch has stated so often in the past, namely, that strong leadership and rigorously applied discipline is needed in our police and traffic force ranks. It started the week before we were due to go up there when our project manager, Maryna Parsons, got a call from a gentleman in Limpopo asking what the project was all about as he knew nothing about it.
She was shocked as everything had been arranged over the prior two months and she stated this. The problem was that the guy she had been dealing with had been led out of his office in handcuffs the day before, allegedly on a corruption charge. His office was under lock and key as was his computer so everything had to be started from scratch and it’s a big thanks to Gordon Horn, Manager Traffic Support, for doing this in such a short space of time. And it’s great to see those accused of corruption being led away in handcuffs.
On the first day of theoretical training, instead of the 80 cops we were told would be attending, there were 120 in the room which meant we ran out of training hand-out material. This also put a bit of a spoke in the works in terms of the next day’s practical training for we had big teams which are not easy to manage.
Although I stated in the introduction that there were many cops who just couldn’t wait to get out of there, I must be fair and state that the practical testing was long and laborious. This was due to the fact that the testing ground itself was not ideally suited for bringing in big trucks and also, both the brake roller tester and weighbridge were not geared for fast turnarounds.
The brake roller tester could not record the individual axle weights and getting the axle weights correct is essential to get accurate results from the brake roller tester. So each truck had to be first taken over the weighbridge alongside the centre.
One at a time
The problem here was that the weigh bridge could not weigh axles either. It could only measure gross mass. So each truck had to be taken on the weighbridge one axle at a time, have the weight of that axle recorded, then the truck would drive forward so that two axles were now being weighed. The second axle weight would be subtracted from the first in order to get the independent axles weights. And so it went.
In the meantime, the teams of cops were hanging around in the hot sun waiting for action. So to be fair, it wasn’t easy for them , or for us. That said, however, not one cop arrived on time on the second morning and when they eventually did start trickling in, there was no-one in charge.
Managing 120 people, which included officials from test centres as well as others, was not at all easy. Having been in the army, I know that one booming command from the company Sergeant-Major would have everyone ‘˜treed-on’ in two seconds flat. Having the editor of a trucking magazine trying to do the same in a branded T-Shirt without any visible rank, takes a little longer.
I urge the traffic leadership in Limpopo to take a hard look at their structures and to instill some form of reporting structure and discipline into the ranks. Military, traffic and police , in fact, any force wearing a country’s national uniform , needs disciplinary structures imparted by leadership and we found this lacking in Limpopo. All this said, there were some absolutely stunning cops who gave their all not only in absorbing whatever knowledge they could but also in tackling the tasks full-on.
FleetWatch has always worked on the Power of One and if we can empower one cop to be able to do his job better, that is good stuff. One life lost is one too many; one hijacking is one too many; one corrupt cop is one too many , so we work on the power of one.
As Chris Barry, MD of HCV, one of our partner companies, stated in an email after the event: “Congratulation on yet another magnificent effort. The back up (partners) team was really great and as always, you showed that if just one fish bites, the whole episode is worth it!’
I’m happy to report that more than one ‘˜fish’ did bite as evidenced by us getting emails since the event from certain cops who were on the training sending photographs of accidents and their evaluation of the reasons for the accidents. They are now enthusiastically looking at truck faults with a more qualified eye than before. And that’s what this is all about.