At FOCUS we are truck-obsessed, and we like to concentrate on the bright side of our dynamic industry. If we didn’t, we’d probably become depressed and derailed.
At some point in the second quarter of the year, we trade our comfortable offices and warm cups of coffee for that early morning autumn chill and a trip to some interesting part of the country – for our annual Truck Test event. As regular readers will know, this event attracts all vehicle manufacturers and their best products. To drive them, the best helmsmen are enlisted.
Usually driver trainers or product engineers, these men (it would be great to see some women behind the wheel sometime) know how to get the best from their vehicles. They have to adhere to a set schedule, much like any other driver would. They also need to conserve fuel and be sympathetic to their vehicles, much like any other driver should.
While bearing all this in mind, they have to deal with high traffic volumes and the irate, impatient motorists (and, unfortunately, colleagues) that form part of the everyday commute. And they do it with aplomb, which is why I couldn’t understand any of the incidents we, unfortunately, came across on our journey.
The first of these was at 07:20, on the N4, some distance outside Springs. The driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. His side-tipper interlink combination then made its way across four lanes of highway and the grass verge that separates the two directions of traffic flow, only to smash through a barrier and land up at the bottom of an embankment.
Miraculously, no other vehicles were gathered up by the out-of-control truck and the driver emerged unscathed.
Forty minutes later, we arrived at the Middelburg weighbridge, to find out that our own FAW truck had been caught up in a tussle between two other vehicles en route. Thankfully, it sustained only minor damage. The incident would not have happened, however, if the person who caused it had been paying attention to the road …
With the weighbridge 20 minutes behind us, I had Naveen Sook in the Mercedes-Benz Actros in my camera’s viewfinder, but my attempts to capture driver and vehicle on the road were thwarted by another tipper combination trying to overtake him, incredibly slowly, while going up the hill. With a growing line of vehicles stuck behind him, for the inordinate amount of time taken by the manoeuvre, I reluctantly abandoned my shoot of the Merc.
Thankfully, the rest of the event proceeded without incident. At the finish at Super Park the following day, though, I couldn’t help but notice a mangled truck in the corner of the yard. As it wasn’t a Super Group vehicle, details of what happened to it were sketchy. Judging by the damage to it and its cargo, however, and the fact that the driver hadn’t made it out alive, it’s fair to assume high speed was a factor.
Unfortunately, for me, this put a dampener on what should’ve been a triumphant ending to an utterly superb event.
It reminded me that our industry is in need of a fair amount of cleaning up. Drivers are being pushed to adhere to schedules that result in them falling asleep at the wheel; some then take stupid, unnecessary risks that result in already-irate motorists becoming more impatient; and many don’t make it out to drive another day.
It’s saddening and maddening. The question is, why is rectifying it so difficult?
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