Truck traffic has increased so dramatically on Durban’s roads in the past decade that roads are taking a pounding and the number of accidents has grown alarmingly.
Statistics from the eThekwini Municipality’s transport planning department show that between January last year and July this year, 12 395 heavy trucks were involved in accidents in the metro – this was 7 percent of all accidents.
Also, one in 10 road deaths in the metro involved trucks.
The city’s statistics show that between 2001 and 2011, the number of trucks entering Durban increased by 53 percent.
“It is a national issue, there is an increase in the number of light delivery vehicles and heavy trucks as road freight escalates,” said AA spokesman Graeme Scala.
He said the driving force behind the growth in road freight was inefficiency in the rail network.
“It is not a cost thing, rail is cheaper (than road), but the infrastructure is not up to pace. It is more effective to use road freight.”
The only viable alternative was air freight which, Scala said, was too expensive for most.
“There is an increase in the damage to our roads due to the number of trucks and the fact that a lot are overloaded and in poor condition. Our roads can’t keep up,” he said, adding that road maintenance backlogs were growing.
Scala’s view was shared by the provincial Department of Transport, which confirmed that roads were under huge “pressure”.
“If you drive on the N3 freeway, for instance, in the space of one hour you will see more than 100 trucks. It is a concern,” said spokesman Kwanele Ncalane.
“We are moving to a serious situation where trucks will occupy the majority of our roads.”
RAIL IS THE ANSWER
Ncalane said his department strongly believed that most goods transported by truck could be moved to rail, which would limit road damage.
“The surfaces of our roads are suffering and, for us to maintain them, we need to look at a long-term solution,” he said.
Ncalane said that the number of accidents involving trucks was a concern. Although Scala said rail was a slower alternative, he and Ncalane believed it was the answer to the need to decrease road freight volumes.
A Transnet Freight Rail spokesman, Michael Asefovitz, said that a road-to-rail strategy was in place and that R300 billion would be spent over seven years to improve the railway network.
“It is not going to be an overnight story, but we are confident we are making an impact in shifting goods from road to rail,” Asefovitz said.
He said Transnet had recently signed memorandums of understanding with Imperial Logistics and Barloworld Logistics, a step towards getting logistics companies on board, and this had support of the government. -The Mercury