Career focus - Traffic information officer
THEY have the power to hold up 10-ton trucks. They can bring hundreds of tons of steel to a grinding halt. They're feared by motorists who flout the laws of the road, and praised by those who keep them.
They're the traffic inspectors who enforce the laws of the road. They patrol, trap, weigh and inspect millions of vehicles on our perilous roads that claim hundreds of lives every year.
Zinhle Mngomezulu, traffic information officer with the KZN Department of Transport, describes her career as a satisfying "calling" that contributes to the battle to prevent accidents and deaths on the roads.
Mngomezulu started her career as a provincial inspector, a job that involves shift work, doing routine patrols and traffic inspections.
Mngomezulu's career followed the path to provincial information officer and her duties now include dealing with statistics, capturing data, monitoring the rates of accidents across the province, and reporting the details to relevant stakeholders.
She also informs the public about road closures and alternative routes.
Traffic officers start their duties at 6am and finish at 2.30pm, while officers who do the afternoon shift start at 1.30pm and finish at 10pm. The night shift runs from 8pm to 6am.
"There's always a senior officer who acts on behalf of the department - in terms of making sure that everything is in order. Sometimes we work long hours, especially during busy periods, but normally we work eight hours," she says.
Duties include patrolling, speed trapping and fining motorists on the highways, pulling trucks over at weight bridges to check for overloading and dealing with errant motorists such as drunk drivers.
In order to be a traffic officer you'll have to train at the department's internal provincial training college for a period of one year where you'll learn all about the National Road Traffic Act (NRTA), the Criminal Procedure Act, speed-timing, the weigh bridge, first-aid and how to safely handle a fire-arm.
To succeed in this career you must be fit, disciplined and polite. Traffic officers have to deal with members of the public - some may be polite and friendly, and others may react rudely, so you need the ability to stay calm.
"We automatically become road safety ambassadors without even knowing it, as we lead by example in terms of complying with the rules of the road.
"Saving lives is the most satisfying aspect of my job, as well as bringing about law and order on our roads," Mngomezulu says. She adds that "one can end up being a manager, examiner of vehicles or examiner of licences, or become a station commissioner whereby you manage your own station".
Taking part in the transport department's Arrive Alive campaign is one of the most satisfying parts of the job.
However, there are hazards on the job too. After all, roads are not exactly the safest working environment.
"The worst aspect is when you lose your life in the line of duty," Mngomezulu says. - sacareerfocus