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Sanral 'good guy' for safer Hex

2013-09-04 17:00

DE DOORNS CRASH: People died when this bus overturned near De Doorns - but it wasn't an 'accident'. Somebody did something wrong... Image: SAPA

Sanral - more usually embroiled in toll-roads controversy - has partnered with Fleetwatch magazine’s Brake and Tyre Watch to cut crashes on the N1's Hex River Pass.

South African magazine Fleetwatch’s nationwide 'Brake and Tyre Watch Initiative' has trained more than 1000 traffic cops to identify and remove unroadworthy heavy vehicles from South African roads. Now Sanral has come aboard...

Sanral (South African National Roads Agency) - more usually in the news because of toll roads - has partnered with the magazine to, among other things, reduce the number of vehicle disasters on the Hex River Pass on the N1 just north of De Doorns.

Fleetwatch magazine's genial owner and editor Patrick O’Leary emphasised: "Our main concern is road safety - we targeted those involved, particularly transport operators and traffic officers, to raise their awareness of efficient braking and tyre checks."

About 70% of trucks stopped by traffic cops failed the checks. Which Wheels24 finds pretty darn scary...

'SPECIALISED KNOWLEDGE'

"This initiative," O'Leary adds, "is also linked to preventative maintenance on trucks, including safety-critical items such as lights and reflective markings."

Fleetwatch has shown Western Cape traffic officers how to put trucks through a brake roller test, a function started in February 2006 which also focuses on trailer defects and other faults. O'Leary added: “We want to empower traffic officers with specialised knowledge so they can intervene more frequently to take unroadworthy heavy vehicles off our roads."

A five-kilometre stretch of the Hex River Pass's southbound (downhill) lanes north of De Doorns have in the past three years seen 33 crashes that have killed 50 people - 47 of them in two bus crashes caused, most likely by brake failure.

Back in 2000 Sanral has insisted heavy vehicles must stop at the top of the pass, engage a low gear, and "crawl" the descent. Which didn't prevent the 50 deaths...

'DEEPLY CONCERNED'

An arrestor bed for runaway trucks was installed along with a concrete barrier and retaining wall between the highway and the river ravine on the pass's notorious hairpin bend.

A Sanral spokesperson added: "The 15km Hex River pass has an average downgrade of six percent, a true test of a vehicle’s brakes. The arrestor bed has been used more than 50 times in the past last six months (to end August 2013). We are deeply concerned by the state of heavy vehicles and buses on our roads and initiatives such as Fleetwatch’s 'Brake and Tyre Watch' are most welcome."

Plans include speed cameras before start of the downhill, buses being included in the compulsory stop, licence-plate recognition and more deflection barriers.

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