Kate Elliott, CEO of Right to Repair
Kate Elliott, CEO of Right to Repair

With road freight transport seeing a 48% growth over the last decade, and heavy goods vehicles now making up 34% of all traffic on the country’s N3 highway, maintenance and repair of fleets is a high priority. One only has to consider the devastating number of fatal truck accidents to appreciate the importance of maintenance and oversight.

Kate Elliott, Chief Executive Officer of Right to Repair South Africa (R2RSA), an organisation especially formed to help drive fair competition and protect consumer interests says, the Guidelines not only apply to private vehicles but to commercial vehicles as well and with costs a major factor in the sector, many fleet owners will be scrutinising the best maintenance and repair options for their fleets.

There are many road safety initiatives trying to inculcate a culture of compliance with the driving public, but unfortunately, we currently do not have adequate vehicle inspection controls. As we approach the festive season, a period traditionally marred by high crash rates, this becomes even more important.

Ferose Oaten, National Chairperson of the Vehicle Testing Association (VTA), concurs saying there is no regular regime of roadworthiness testing for nearly 80% of the vehicle population.  She says vehicles are required to have a statutory roadworthy test on change of ownership. In the case of trucks and taxis that testing requirement is annual and for buses it is every 6 months.

She says between these periodic checks, the maintenance and roadworthiness of these vehicles continue to be the responsibility of the owners. Roadside testing and enforcement rests on the relevant authorities in the various provincial or local municipal departments. “They would need to practice regular inspection controls at roadblocks or on the road, in accordance with the national standard, “Roadside Assessment of Vehicles”,” she says.

 Elliott says the Guidelines are there to help fleet managers take a more proactive stance on the road safety of their fleets. “The reality is that we have an aging vehicle population and this extends to commercial vehicles as well. According to the Department of Transport only 14,68% of trucks are less than three years old.  A large percentage, 55,22%, are older than 10 years; 25,49% older than 20 years and 3,72% older than 30 years. While an older vehicle can of course be safely used for many years, this requires careful maintenance and care. Considering the exaggerated consequences of a crash involving a heavy commercial vehicle, compared to private vehicles, keeping these vehicles well maintained and roadworthy is of vital importance.

We hope that with the Guidelines now in place, fleet owners will find affordable quality servicing more accessible. This should definitely ease some of the financial pressure on fleet owners and make our roads safer for both truck drivers and passenger vehicles this festive season.  In the interim she cautions motorists  to demonstrate caution on busy truck routes. “Remember trucks have a  longer stopping distance, a larger turning radius and less manoeuvrability than passenger vehicles so be aware of these limitations.”