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Direct, deadly attacks on SA truck drivers are getting worse

Five people have been arrested in connection with the looting of a clothing truck which overturned after a stone-throwing incident in De Doorns on Sunday.
Five people have been arrested in connection with the looting of a clothing truck which overturned after a stone-throwing incident in De Doorns on Sunday.
Image: Facebook / Fleetwatch

Rocks being hurled directly at truck drivers is "something new" as a spate of attacks on the "soft targets" plays out on the country's roads - some of them deadly.

That was the warning sounded by Road Freight Association (RFA) CEO Gavin Kelly on Wednesday, as reports of more rock-throwing and looting incidents emerged.

"Throwing rocks or stones from overhead bridges is something new. We've had rocks packed on the road or roads being closed off to bring the truck to a standstill and then burnt. But these incidents now are attacks directly on the driver," Kelly said.

"One can compare it to what happened in the 80s and the 90s. There is a lot."

According to the association's database, 320 people - nearly one person a day on average - died in the road freight industry over the past year due to crime or violent service delivery protests.

Incidents reported to the association indicated that 1,300 trucks had been damaged or destroyed over the past year.

Collating the information, the association estimated the damage to property from destroyed trucks, trailers, the loss of labour, medical expenses and associated costs to be in the region of R1bn.

Transport delays were estimated to have cost the industry about R1.5bn.

Kelly said safety was a major concern as trucks were soft targets, but clamping down was  a problem as "there seems to be no rationale or modus operandi about why it happens".

"One does not know where the next incident is going to happen."

Kelly urged communities not to target trucks or truckers if they were unhappy with their local government.

"These are people's lives which are lost here and their families then have financial problems."

Trade union Satawu secretary-general Jack Mazibuko told TimesLIVE on Wednesday that they had called on police minister Bheki Cele to intervene for the safety of drivers.

"Attacks on drivers started last year ... We think it is unacceptable," he said.

TimesLIVE's reports on recent attacks in just the past few weeks include:

  • Time Link Cargo driver Christopher Kgomo was killed on the N1 near De Doorns in the Western Cape in the early hours of Sunday morning. Someone threw a rock at the truck and struck Kgomo, but it did not kill him on impact. He was trampled to death by thieves who looted the truck after it crashed. 
  • A second truck was stoned in De Doorns on Tuesday morning.
  • A pedestrian threw a rock at truck driving on the N3 highway in Durban on Tuesday morning near The Pavillion shopping centre. 
  • A brick was hurled through the windscreen of a SA Zero Waste truck driving on the N3 near Pietermaritzburg on Saturday, hitting the left arm of driver Nkanyiso Cele and leaving him bloodied.

National police spokesperson Brig Vishnu Naidoo said on Wednesday these crimes were "sporadic and opportunistic".

"These investigations are being treated with much seriousness as these kind of incidents affect the smooth running of the grand economic strategy of the country."

Naidoo added that the police had "multidisciplinary integrated interventions" in place in and around Durban to deal with the problem.

"Since the inception of these interventions, the attacks have subsided."

The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC)’s state of road safety report for 2017 reported that there were 372,678 registered trucks on SA's road. 

Local company Hawkeye Trucker Assist spotted a gap in the market to help broken down trucks or escort trucks when the drivers felt unsafe.

Hawkeye Trucker Assist owner Claudia Carvalho told TimesLIVE it started operating in April because there was a gap between the control rooms of logistics companies and the trucks on the road.

"It doesn't help having a control looking at a screen as to what is going on with the truck, but no one is there to back the truckers up. The companies can do absolutely nothing about it," Carvalho said.

"Before the De Doorns incident on Sunday, breakdowns were the criminals' biggest targets. Now it's becoming a more violent thing. It's happening more, and in completely different areas."

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