On average about five trucks a year have an accident at the famous “old train” junction in Usakos, mostly due to brake failures at a point where the B2 road leading from Swakopmund into the town of Usakos descends for 20 kilometres.
Until recently such runaway trucks would have no alternative means of slowing down, a safety concern that prompted the Roads Authority to construct an ‘arrestor bed’ along the sloping road before the town of Usakos.
An arrestor bed is a side road specifically constructed to slow down and stop heavy vehicles that encounter braking problems when descending on a steep slope.
It is typically a long, sand-or gravel-filled lane adjacent to a road with a steep downhill grade, and is designed to accommodate large trucks. The deep filling allows the truck’s momentum to be absorbed in a controlled and relatively harmless way, allowing the operator to stop the vehicle safely.
Long descending grades allow vehicles to reach high speed and in the process truck brakes can overheat and fail through extensive use. Therefore arrestor beds are usually located on steep, sustained grades, as in mountainous areas.
The ramps are often built near a critical change in the bend of the road, or before a place that may require the vehicle to stop, such as an intersection in a populated area.
“The construction of this arrestor bed was completed at the end of last year and it has already yielded positive results. A number of trucks have successfully utilised the arrestor bed to avoid possible fatal traffic accidents,” the Minister of Works and Transport, Alpheus !Naruseb, said when he officially launched the arrestor bed recently.
“This is a clear indication that we need more road infrastructures of this nature in other parts of our country as well. I therefore implore on the Roads Authority to do more road safety audits and recommend the construction of more arrester beds where required,” he said.
Damage to heavy vehicles using an arrester bed is minimal, especially in comparison to the damage caused in a crash. The heavy vehicle is safely decelerated and stopped by the drag caused by the vehicle as it sinks into the bed material.
“I wish to appeal to all road users, especially heavy vehicle operators, to use this new infrastructure optimally to avoid accidents. I am deeply concerned about the alarming carnage on our roads, especially on the B2 route.
“As we improve the roads, we experience more accidents. Good roads are supposed to ensure that all travellers reach their destinations safely. Please observe all the traffic rules and only overtake when it is safe to do so,” !Naruseb advised.