For the first time in the history of the trucking industry, a request was made for all trucks to get off the N3 highway on the evening of May 1st, 2018 for fear of attacks similar to those which occurred at Mooi River on April 2nd and April 30th where a total of 36 trucks were completely destroyed and 11 badly damaged. The N11 and N1 towards Messina were also cited as high risk. Two other incidents – on April 26th and 27th – had also resulted in three more trucks being burnt and destroyed.
The call came through to FleetWatch editor Patrick O’Leary at 10.15pm on May 1st from a high authority asking for all trucks to be taken off the road. I was told by the person who phoned that the information the authorities had received had elevated the risk factor from a stand-by position to a Code Red in terms of the possibility of trucks being attacked.
The request was that trucks south bound on the N3 go no further than Villiers and north bound, for trucks to be kept in Durban or, if on the road, to be parked at a safe and secure place off the road as soon as possible.
FleetWatch immediately sent out an urgent message on our FleetWatch Facebook page as well as our other various contact channels while also personally phoning a number of top management individuals in various trucking companies. We also notified the Road Freight Association who in turn, got their IT specialist out of bed and notified all RFA members.
Knowing the cost implications to transport companies as well as late deliveries and collections to and from clients, this was a ‘heavy’ call to make but FleetWatch decided to go with it as the ‘authority’ who made the request by phone is known to FleetWatch and would not make such a call without absolute good cause. The verification of intent was solid.
The end result was that the N3 was probably at its quietest ever throughout the night as trucks parked off to avoid any danger. Click here to see the Mooi River plaza at around 02H00 when, on a normal night, it is very busy at this time. The video was taken by Aliwal Security’s Sewraj Girdhurparsadh who was patrolling on the night.
Also notably was that due to the Code Red status of the threats, there was a heavy presence of law enforcement along the N3 particularly at the high risk spots like Mooi River, Tugela Plaza as well as Van Reenen. One truck driver who didn’t get the message and who passed all these points said he had seen a lot of RTI personnel and vehicles stationed at Mooi River toll at around 9.00pm. SAPS members were also seen there. “Even at Tugela, there were about 10 RTI cars and four SAPS crew buses while at Villiers (which was not cited as a hot spot) there was one SAPS vehicle which was stationary and another patrolling,” he reported.
What this proves is that visible policing works. If you and I were going to rob a bottle store and we saw 10 cop cars parked outside it, we’d look at each other and say: “No chance. Let’s go to the pub and come back another time”. And therein lies the problem.
Trucking companies cannot keep their trucks off the road every night and the heavy presence of police is also, I have been told, not sustainable. It all worked out on the night when there was a known high risk factor and everyone co-operated to eliminate and reduce that risk – but that can’t happen every night. It’s impossible for transporters and as much as we would like it to happen, the reality is that law enforcement is not going to manage it either.
It is thus that transport companies are going to have to increase their security in these trying times. It is not at all ideal but there is no ways that the night of May 1st can be emulated on a daily basis .
One man who knows the trucking industry well having been protecting client vehicles for a number of years is Sewraj Girdhurparsadh of Aliwal Security based in Hilton. He is a no-nonsense guy whose people are highly trained in the field of security. Having been on the scene of all the incidents over the past month – even helping the police in stopping and arresting looters in Mooi River on the night of April 30th, he has come up with a plan.
“There have been an increased number of criminal incidents against the transport industry in recent times and the situation is not going to get better. In all probability, it is going to get much worse,” he says, adding that they are well aware of the challenges facing law enforcement in dealing with this problem.
In response to these incidents as well as to an increased number of hijackings between Pinetown and the Midlands and in the interests of keeping the wheels of the industry turning, Aliwal is proposing the following:
That the company will deploy three cars with heavily armed security – handguns and long arms – to patrol continuously from 6.00pm to 6.00am. The first vehicle will patrol the N3 between the Mariannhill Toll plaza to Pietermaritzburg; the second between Pietermaritzburg and the Mooi River toll plaza; and the third between Mooi River and the Tugela Plaza.
“These vehicles will monitor and respond to any activity conducive to criminal actions and will also respond to hijackings, attempted hijackings, truck accidents and breakdowns. They will also be in a position to monitor a fleet and any irregular driver activity or behaviour,” says Girdhurparsadh.
This security service obviously comes at a cost but when one considers that the losses in terms of trucks and equipment on just one night of the attacks at Mooi River came to over the R250-million mark, the cost must be placed in perspective.
If anyone is interested, you can phone Sewraj on 083-3064421 to discuss the costs and various options. With margins in the industry being so low, FleetWatch understands that every penny counts. We also understand, however, that we are living in abnormal times where the trucking industry is under severe threat from criminal and other elements – and law enforcement is not going to handle it all. You need more muscle on your side. I know of one operator alone who lost over R10-million on the night of April 2nd when his trucks were attacked and burnt. Give it some thought.