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Johannesburg - Fifty-eight percent of public transport vehicles tested recently have failed roadworthy tests, according to Gauteng traffic police.
Bus operator Putco owned the majority of the 998 buses tested in the past three weeks, according to Busaphi Nxumalo, the Gauteng traffic police spokeswoman.
The checks began on March 31.
Also, 1366 taxis had been tested as of yesterday, and 34 percent were unroadworthy.
The vehicles were suspended from operating and their owners were given 14 days to fix the problems before returning to a testing station for another round of tests.
The checks were carried out as part of a joint effort of the JMPD, Gauteng traffic police and other law enforcement agencies, to ensure public buses and taxis travelling in and out of Gauteng during the Easter weekend are safe.
The campaign was launched in preparation for the holiday, when traffic police estimate about 80 percent of Gauteng’s vehicles will leave the province.
Last year, more than 201 fatal crashes across the country over Easter led to the deaths of 241 people.
In Gauteng, 46 died in accidents, according to Obed Sibasa, the Gauteng traffic police spokesman.
Malfunctioning brakes and faded tyre treads were the most common problems with public buses tested, Nxumalo said. Taxis had more general defects, with tyres, windscreens and steering wheels, she said.
This is not the first time Putco buses have raised red flags.
In June 2012, 19 people died and 55 were injured when a Putco bus crashed in Meyerton, south of Joburg.
In November, more than 30 people died in another Putco bus crash on Moloto Road near Pretoria.
“All of Putco’s buses undergo stringent roadworthy testing procedures every six months,” company spokesman Tshepo Tsotsotso said.
Buses found unroadworthy were fixed by specialised mechanics, he added.
Safety was expected to be an even bigger issue during the weekend for the company.
Putco had teamed up with the Zion Christian Church to transport 54 000 members from Gauteng to Moria in Limpopo on an annual pilgrimage, and 737 buses out of the company’s 2000 would be used for the job, said Tsotsotso.
The bus company released a 2014 Easter safety initiative, prohibiting bus drivers travelling at more than 80km/h and instructing them to turn on headlights at all times.
Meanwhile, more roadworthy tests would be conducted today at the Randburg, Randfontein, Wadeville, Boksburg, Kempton Park, Mabopane, Wattville and Braamfontein testing stations, said Wayne Minnaar, spokesman for the JMPD.
Drivers should also expect traffic delays from today, as more roadblocks will be set up around provincial borders this Easter weekend than ever before.
Gauteng traffic police and the JMPD were taking on the challenge of reporting zero fatal accidents during the long weekend, Minnaar added.
Police began putting up roadblocks on Tuesday on the M2 towards Cleveland, the N3 towards KZN and the N4 towards Mpumalanga, said Minnaar.
At roadblocks, police officers will check licences and vehicles’ roadworthiness, and be on the lookout for drivers who have been drinking.
Random alcohol-breath tests will also be administered on the roads. Rather than getting caught, “drivers are advised to use transport services”, Minnaar said.