The shocking condition of some roads in South Africa is causing huge damage to vehicles of all descriptions, most notably trucks and trailers. So says managing director of Serco, Charl Coetzee.
“We’re seeing a lot of damage to suspensions, tyres, rims as well as air bags on heavy vehicles, a large amount of which has been caused by the state of roads in some parts of our country,” he says. And he is talking from hands-on experience as Serco has extensive repair facilities at its branches in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Gqeberha.
Coetzee adds that in many areas of South Africa, the state of roads – especially in country districts – is getting worse rather than being improved. Repairs to potholes and damaged sections of roads are often not done efficiently and soon fall back into disrepair.
In some areas, members of the public have taken to repairing roads at their own cost.
Highlighting an example of a hazardous road, Coetzee says he frequently travelled between Schweizer-Reneke and Wolmaransstad in the North West province. “It’s about a 60km trip between the two towns and to be honest, there is hardly anything left of the road. One often sees vehicles broken down with drivers spending a lot of their time swerving all over to avoid potholes.”
Coetzee says that because of the bad condition of many roads in the North West and Limpopo provinces, it is dangerous for heavy vehicles to travel on them at night thus causing delays in deliveries.
A spokesperson for a national supermarket chain who asked not to be named says many roads in South Africa, especially those in urban and semi-urban areas, are in a poor condition with potholes being a serious hazard for the group’s trucks and trailers. He says their vehicles also suffer damage from overhanging trees, especially in country areas, on poorly maintained roads.
“We experience damage where our vehicles are unable to avoid potholes while branches from overhanging trees cause damage to windscreens, cabs, fridges, boxes and branding on the side of our big trailers. Our focus is on the safety of our drivers and the current general condition of roads puts our drivers at risk. In some areas in South Africa, we specify that our trailers must be fitted with dual tyres to mitigate the risk of blowouts.”
Coetzee says that in the interests of the economy as well as motorists generally, South Africa needs a concerted national effort from authorities all over the country to rebuild our road network rather than doing patch-up jobs which often don’t last. “An efficient road transport network is vital for the prosperity of South Africa and the industry cannot perform at its optimum if so many roads are in a mess.”
And it’s not only poor roads that are boosting the repair side of Serco’s business. “The challenges with sourcing new trucks due to global supply chain shortages and delays at the country’s ports have resulted in transporters having to make their vehicles last longer and we have seen as a noticeable increase in repair sales as a result. The increasing age of fleets is contributing towards more maintenance being needed to retain a vehicle’s integrity and limit costly breakdowns,” says Coetzee.
He points out though that in an effort to improve the state of provincial roads, government said in a recent report that it was rolling out a labour intensive road construction and maintenance programme with targets for physical works including resealing, blacktop patching, pothole repairs and maintenance of gravel roads.
Among projects authorities have committed to is the maintenance of about 20 000km of roads in South Africa’s secondary road network by March next year. These are Provincial roads in urgent need of being upgraded to an acceptable state of repair. The sooner the better we reckon.