WINDHOEK – The Motor Vehicle Accident Fund of Namibia (MVA) released statistics last month regarding road accidents involving trucks. The outcome was shocking.
Over a period of 20 days, between January and February this year, 11 road crashes involving trucks occurred on Namibian roads. Seven people lost their lives in those 11 road crashes while 19 others sustained injuries.
What is shocking is the fact that out of those 11 crashes, 8 of them occurred after sunset. This could be attributed to possible fatigue on the part of the truck driver.
Fatigue, also referred to as tiredness and exhaustion, describes a physical or mental state of being tired and weak. Although physical and mental fatigue are different, the two often exist together. If a person is physically exhausted for long enough, they will also be mentally tired.
When somebody experiences physical fatigue, it means they cannot continue functioning at their normal levels of physical ability. Mental fatigue, however, is more slanted towards feeling sleepy and being unable to concentrate properly.
Truck drivers drive for longer distances to deliver their consignment of goods. Since trucks are limited to drive only 80km/h, a journey from Windhoek to Oshakati would take a truck driver on average 10 hours of driving.
Since most truck drivers are paid commission for “fast” deliveries, example taking ones load from one point to the other and returning as soon as possible thereafter, this in itself is deadly.
A journey from Windhoek to Oshakati and back to Windhoek would mean a total of 20 hours on the road. And with the bonus payment as “motivator”, truck drivers hardly find the time to rest. This continuous driving is very dangerous as it wears out truck drivers and expose them to falling asleep behind the wheel of monster trucks.
Not all trucking companies employ two drivers per such journey, as they too are trying to cut on cost. Thus too much pressure is placed on this one driver, making fatigue a reality. Namibian laws do not force trucking companies to recruit two drivers on longer journeys, like in neighbouring countries such as Botswana and Zambia.
All this explains the higher figures of accidents involving trucks that occurs mainly after sunset. This is the time that the truck drivers body is tired and calling for a rest. However due to other factors pushing the truck drivers to continue driving, they tend to fall asleep behind the steering wheel and causing major damage.
During 2012, ten people were killed and 28 injured when a truck encroached onto the other lane and collided head-on with an oncoming bus, about 30 kilometres from Tsumeb on the way to Oshivelo.
The bus carrying 64 passengers was on its way to Oshakati from Windhoek when it crashed into a truck that strayed onto its lane at around 01h00. Nine people died on the spot while the tenth injuries sustained while in hospital.
During 2014, seven people died instantly when a bus collided head-on with a truck on the B1 road between Okahandja and Otjiwarongo. Four of the deceased were Namdeb employees who where travelling in a bus from the northern regions to Oranjemund. The driver of the bus, the driver of the truck and his co-driver all died on the spot.
During 2005, the worst ever road accident to be recorded in Namibia took place when 28 people lost their lives in a single accident. The accident occurred 30 kilometres north of Grootfontien on the road to Rundu. Passengers were flung out of a mini-bus that was on the way to Rundu, when it collided with a truck transporting copper from Zambia to the Tsumeb smelter.
It was shortly after this tragedy that President Hifikepunye Pohamba expressed sadness and shock over these deaths. At the time of addressing the press at State House during 2005 the President said: “Fellow Namibians, with great sadness and shock and a heavy heart I announce that last night on May 31, 2005, our country suffered a tragedy in which 28 people lost their lives in a horrific road accident that occurred between 9 and 10 o’clock last night.” The Head of State also noted that this was the first time since Independence that the country has suffered such a huge loss of human lives in a single road accident.
Most Namibians have been calling for the ban of trucks on the roads at night. The trucking industry on the other hand does not support this as it would hamper their business operations and could shoot the price of commodities high up.
Whatever Namibia might adopt as a Country regarding trucks and night driving, one factor remain. And that is the tired truck drivers that we find on Namibian roads, causing havoc on our roads after sunset.