Op­er­a­tors the real ter­ror­ists

AL­WYN VILJOEN counts the bod­ies in the wake of ex­treme Ji­hadists and neg­li­gent taxi own­ers

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

DRIV­ING with the aim to kill as many tourists as he could, Younes Abouyaaqoub killed 13 peo­ple and in­jured over a 100 more in Barcelona last week.

Driv­ing an over­loaded taxi down the steep hills to the Msun­duzi Bridge near Na­gle Dam near Cato Ridge with no in­ten­tion to kill any­one, Lin­de­lani Ngob­ane caused the deaths of 20 peo­ple on Sun­day.

He sur­vived the crash and is cur­rently in a crit­i­cal con­di­tion in hos­pi­tal.

Abouyaaqoub also sur­vived his crash, run­ning away to hi­jack a car, killing its 34-year-old owner to make his get­away. He was shot dead on Mon­day af­ter a mas­sive five-day man­hunt.

South Africa can­not look for­ward to such a tidy so­lu­tion for the crim­i­nally neg­li­gent ve­hi­cle op­er­a­tors and their un­trained, over­worked and un­der­paid drivers. Th­ese fleet own­ers are the real ter­ror­ists in our so­ci­ety.

In­stead of bombs, they send out drivers in taxis that more of­ten than not have brakes that are in dire need of a ser­vice.

Th­ese own­ers are also the ha­bit­u­ally over­load­ers who are po­lit­i­cally un­touch­able de­spite ru­in­ing South Africa’s road sys­tem by car­ry­ing as much as 20 tons on top of their max­i­mum loads.

The SA Na­tional Taxi Coun­cil (San­taco) is try­ing hard to en­sure that the li­cenced taxi op­er­a­tors train their drivers to be more pro­fes­sional through its train­ing academy.

One of the academy’s nine strate­gic ob­jec­tives is “to im­prove ser­vice delivery and cre­ate a cus­tomer-ori­en­tated ser­vice within the trans­port in­dus­try”.

How­ever, San­taco op­er­a­tors man­aged to make them­selves a lot more en­e­mies with re­cent goslows in KwaZulu-Na­tal and Gauteng, as well as a vi­o­lent protest in Pre­to­ria. In Gauteng, the taxis that blocked high­ways around Jo­han­nes­burg caused hun­dreds of peo­ple to miss their flights from O.R. Tambo, cost­ing the public hun­dreds of thou­sands in rands.

That protest was against the high fi­nance costs op­er­a­tors pay on taxis — a real is­sue that San­taco can solve by buy­ing the thou­sands of taxis sold monthly di­rectly from Toy­ota and pass­ing the sav­ings on to their mem­bers.

In­stead, the coun­cil fo­cuses on peace­fully set­tling dis­putes over prof­itable routes be­tween reg­is­tered op­er­a­tors, who are them­selves pulling no punches, nor sav­ing any bul­lets in their bat­tles for routes.

The drivers are be­hav­ing equally badly. In the re­cent Pre­to­ria protest, taxi drivers used bricks to smash win­dows of cars trapped in the traf­fic, ter­ri­fy­ing mo­torists to the point where pan­icked drivers tried to bash their way out off the log jam.

Per­haps th­ese drivers mis­un­der­stood the “ag­gres­sive re­search and devel­op­ment into ap­pro­pri­ate pro­grammes” which the San­taco train­ing academy has as one of its mis­sions, along­side “ay­namic” in­stead of dy­namic modes of delivery.

The bot­tom line is: while op­er­a­tors of taxis and trucks are al­lowed to avoid ac­count­abil­ity — as did the owner of the truck that killed 22 peo­ple at the bot­tom of Field’s Hill in Pine­town in Septem­ber 2012 — South Africa will con­tinue to see ram­pant neg­li­gence as small fleet own­ers cut costs on main­te­nance. • al­wyn.viljoen@wit­ness.co.za

PHOTO: ROAD SAFETY

At this year’s Brake and Tyre Watch, held in con­junc­tion with Hino at the RTI Pine­town Test­ing Sta­tion in KwaZu­luNatal, of­fi­cers found four of the six trucks checked were un­road­wor­thy. Left is a typ­i­cal worn tyre on a truck.

Fleet­watch publisher Pa­trick O’Leary said au­thor­i­ties need to be far more proac­tive in con­duct­ing brake and tyre checks.

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