Zambian truck drivers plead for better trucker facilities

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Donna Collins

Swakopmund-Coupled with the many challenges long distance truck drivers face, one of them is the lack of truckport facilities in Namibia, where drivers are sometimes expected to wait for days – even weeks – in limbo conditions, before they are able to do a turnaround trip.

And with the growing cargo truck industry and expanding Walvis Bay port facilities increasing trade to and from Namibia, the amplified truck traffic from neighbouring countries has not been met with improved facilities at major towns for these weary drivers, in particular the coast.

Even though new and improved sleeping bunks come standard with all trucks on the road these days, the sad reality is that once long distance drivers have reached their destination, finding adequate parking facilities for their very costly truck, a washroom, and affordable cooked food and sometimes even safety, is questionable.

Last week New Era spoke to a group of Zambian truckers, who found themselves at the mercy of a delayed cargo delivery from a salt works company, which resulted in them parking their cargo trucks at an open lot near the Ocean View Shell service station on the Henties Bay road.

They had nowhere else to park their trucks whilst they waited, and had to both wash and cook on site next to their vehicles.

All seven drivers who had travelled from thousands of kilometres from Zambia to Swakopmund in convey three weeks ago, and represented three different Zambian companies, were stuck on the side of the road for nearly ten days, while waiting to fetch their consignment.

Whilst sleeping in their trucks is all part of the job when they are on the road, the repeated dilemma these drivers face of having no proper ablution or washing facilities is a problem.

With most of the drivers aged between 35 to over 50 years, all of them were seasoned drivers, having notched up decades of experience behind the wheel. They said the discomfort of not having a proper facility that caters for truck drivers is something that should be addressed by the industry, as grown and responsible men such as they are should not have to be compromised in such a manner.

“We are not boys, and mostly family men, whose jobs as long distance drivers make us accountable for valuable trucks and cargo, yet we don’t feel treated this way,” said one. “It is uncomfortable to not be able to wash for several days, or have nowhere to park your truck, because you are chased away as it has become [the norm] in Walvis Bay because of overcrowding.

“Truck drivers are not being appreciated for the job they are doing or the service they are delivering,” he added. “Apart from driving long hours on busy roads often with long delays at the borders, being away from your families, we feel there should be better equipped provisions by the trucking industry to accommodate our basic needs at the end of the day.”

Oswaldo Mendes, the owner Ocean View Shell, said he granted permission for the Zambian truck drivers to park on the premises, as he feels really sorry for the guys, and made sure they had fresh water every day to wash, as well as making available to them the toilets on site.

“I have submitted a request to the municipality to acquire a piece of land to build a properly equipped truck port facility in Swakopmund, because the need is growing daily, and these truck drivers have nowhere to park their trucks with no decent facilities,” he said.

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