Pongola crash: Zululand mayor proposes that trucks travel at night only, but is this pragmatic?

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Pongola crash: Zululand mayor proposes that trucks travel at night only, but is this pragmatic?
Pongola crash: Zululand mayor proposes that trucks travel at night only, but is this pragmatic?

Africa-Press – South-Africa. In an effort to reduce road carnage in northern KwaZulu-Natal, Zululand District Mayor Thulasizwe Buthelezi has proposed that truck drivers should only hit the road at night.

His suggestion comes after the death of 18 children, aged five to 12, and two adults in Pongola earlier this month in a collision involving a truck.

It is alleged that the driver of the truck veered into the oncoming lane and passed several vehicles before colliding with the vehicle the deceased pupils were travelling in, dragging it for about 1.2km. Eight of the children died at the scene.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula visited Pongola on Thursday where he released a report on the recent accident to victims’ families. In it, the truck driver was blamed for the crash.

Buthelezi released a statement, saying that it was vital to have a national strategy regulating the number of trucks passing through Zululand.

He said the R34 from Vryheid to Richards Bay, and the N2 from Pongola to Richard’s Bay “simply cannot cope with the number of trucks passing these routes on an hourly basis”.

He added:

“We call upon the Minister of Transport to urgently come up with a national strategy to deal with these trucks, including [limiting] their times of travel to…18:00 to 06:00 only.”

But is this a pragmatic solution or a knee-jerk reaction?

Zululand Business Chamber of Commerce and Industry deputy president Mike Patterson said the proposed solution could be problematic.

“The trucks travelling only at night would double the number [of trucks] on the road and this may not be possible. There would still be the same number travelling through the city and creating the same amount of damage.”

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Traffic volumes would not decrease, he added.

“The trucks add little value to the local economy but do cause serious infrastructural damage, whether it be during the day or night. The only advantage is that local businesses may be able to access their premises during the day.”

Failure of the rail system

Patterson’s view was that the “cause of the problem” was the failure of the rail system, saying that many products should be transported by rail – not in trucks.

“The rail network upgrades should be commenced immediately and fast tracked, and the road network assessed to find ways to improve the traffic flow, but this is all long term.”

Another intervention could be stricter control of the number of vehicles on the road at any given time, he said, “as well as full-time policing of the vehicle roadworthiness and the driver qualifications”.

“The drivers and their employers should be disciplined and forced to obey the rules of the road and show due consideration for other road users. The present situation is unacceptable and cannot continue without some drastic changes,” he said.

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