Dealing with fuel tanker issues on South African roads

By Hloniphizwe Mtolo, Shell Companies South Africa: Country Chair

As South Africa makes its way to festive season, we are reminded of the pressing need to address critical issues within our transportation landscape. Recent incidents involving fuel tankers highlight the urgency of prioritising safety, exploring alternative transportation methods, and fostering transparent communication with the public.

The spate of road accidents especially involving fuel tankers since late last year has raised significant concerns. These accidents jeopardise the lives of the public, other road users, and truck drivers, while also inflicting damage on our vital infrastructure. Moreover, the spectre of fuel theft compounds the problem, posing security threats to individuals and businesses alike.

To effectively confront these challenges, we must unite behind safety measures, embrace innovative and safer transportation methods, and establish an open dialogue with the public at large.

Importantly, the safety of all stakeholders must take precedence. Under no circumstance, can we afford to compromise on safety, whether it's in the aftermath of an accident or during routine transport operations. Comprehensive training for truck drivers, meticulous vehicle maintenance, road signs and speed limit compliance are non-negotiable in ensuring the well-being of everyone involved.

Collaborative efforts between government and the private sector are indispensable for providing the necessary resources, including training and equipment, to guarantee the safety of both drivers and vehicles. Strict adherence to safety protocols is imperative, with companies steadfastly enforcing these regulations to underscore the paramount importance of safety.

Furthermore, fuel theft from these tankers remains a concerning issue that must be urgently tackled. While we empathise with the challenges arising from elevated fuel prices, resorting to fuel theft for financial relief is untenable. The risks associated with this practice are substantial, and it is imperative that we cease its continuation. Instead, we must turn our focus towards exploring alternative transportation solutions that prioritise safety and cost-effectiveness.

In the spirit of the festive season, transparent communication must serve as the cornerstone of our approach. Every industry, including liquid fuels, must demonstrate an unwavering commitment to the safety and well-being of our citizens. By communicating the robust measures we are taking to ensure safety and prevent accidents, we can foster trust and confidence among the public in our ability to effectively address these pressing concerns.

As we assess the current state of fuel tanker transportation, accurate data about their prevalence on our roads is pivotal. Unfortunately, comprehensive datasets tracking this information are currently lacking. Yet, considering the growing demand for fuel and its relevance to expanding industries, it's plausible that there has been a surge in fuel tanker presence.

A crucial aspect of mitigating fuel tanker accidents involves the continuous comprehensive training of drivers. Beyond basic driving skills, specialised training must cover the intricacies of operating fuel tankers safely. Drivers should grasp the potential hazards associated with transporting fuel and be equipped to respond adeptly during emergencies. In addition, instilling defensive driving techniques can significantly contribute to accident prevention.

Maintaining the well-being of vehicles is equally necessary in averting accidents. Fuel tankers are intricate vehicles that necessitate regular maintenance for safe and efficient operation. Adherence to rigorous maintenance schedules is essential, accompanied by thorough pre-trip safety checks conducted by drivers. Regular inspections and upkeep of vital components such as fuel tanks, hoses, pumps, and valves are pivotal in minimising accident risks.

The message to motorists and pedestrians is clear:

  • Prioritise safety by avoiding leaking tankers, irrespective of your understanding of the carried product.
  • Prevent ignition risks by refraining from smoking or carrying potential ignition sources near leaking tankers.
  • Steer clear of burning vehicles, regardless of size.
  • Maintain a safe distance of at least 1 kilometre from burning tankers to avoid potential material propelled by tire explosions.
  • Contact emergency services if no response is evident.

Through these concerted efforts, we can meaningfully reduce accidents, enhancing safety for all South Africans.