WE stopped counting at 60 trucks. It was 20h00 at night and my mate and I were driving down Van Reenen’s Pass through the Drakensberg between Ladysmith and Harrismith.
Barrelling toward us on what’s acknowledged as South Africa’s most dangerous pass was a horde of multi-wheeled leviathans. It was a hair-raising experience.
It was also the exclamation point on a drive that began at 03h00 when we left Cape Town en route to Underberg in KZN. And those alarming 36,3 kilometres down Van Reenen’s only emphasised a problem we’d witnessed right from the beginning of our long trip north … there are way too many trucks on our national roads.
I realise why they’re there – our rail system has been the object of neglect for too long, making it neither very reliable nor cost-effective to get goods from point to point. But trucking everything – and, somewhat ironically, this includes motor vehicles, because we saw many fully laden carriers – simply cannot be the solution.
For one thing, it compromises road safety, a point to which I can attest on my 3 000 km round trip. Don’t get me wrong; while the overwhelming majority of truckers were both safe drivers and courteously helpful in assisting us to pass – particularly at night – I did witness some spectacularly dangerous manoeuvres.
The other big problem is the negative effect it’s having on our economy. With the ever-increasing fuel price and widespread roll-out of tolls, the cost of living in our country continues to rise.
It’s perhaps unusual for the editor of a motoring magazine to say this, but we need more trains.