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Truck Accidents

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The Road Traffic Management Corporation [RTMC] has been tasked with compiling and researching crash statistics in South Africa. The importance of the data isn't simply its "statistical significance" but its affect on reducing future accidents.

For a better understanding and awareness of the challenges facing Road Safety in South Africa it is important that these reports be made available to the public and road safety role players - and that they are studied closely.

It is the vision of the arrive alive web site to be an effective information portal for Road Safety , and these Statistical reports should assist journalists and educators to create further awareness.
Tom Tom Route Planner

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A truck (North American and Australian English) or lorry (British and Commonwealth English) is a motor vehicle designed to transport cargo. Trucks vary greatly in size, power, and configuration, with the smallest being mechanically similar to an automobile. Commercial trucks can be very large and powerful, and may be configured to mount specialized equipment, such as in the case of fire trucks and concrete mixers and suction excavators. Modern trucks are powered by either gasoline or diesel engines, with diesel dominant in commercial applications. In the European Union vehicles with a gross combination mass of less than 3,500 kilograms (7,716 lb) are known as Light commercial vehicles and those over as Large goods vehicles.

Lean about the NO ZONE

According to a 2009 study, 221 fatal bus accidents occur in a year as opposed to 18, 315 crashes involving cars; public transport is a considerably safe alternative to driving. Even so, accidents involving buses are a growing concern which the Federal Motor Carrier Administration has investigated ( In most cases, an accident will occur due to driver negligence, with 15 out of 19 bus accidents involving a driver at fault. This can include speeding and failing to take bad weather conditions into consideration, driver fatigue, making abrupt lane changes and veering off of the road.

In South Africa there are an average number of 1 500 [reported]  truck and bus accidents a year that involve one or more fatalities.  Approximately 200 of the fatalities are the actual drivers of the truck or bus.

Unfortunately I cannot find any statistics that cover accidents between trucks/buses and cars.  However anyone with common sense will probably note that the drivers and passengers of a car are most likely to come off worst in one of these collisions.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist  to work out that a 40 ton truck colliding with a 1½ ton car normally equals


The word "truck" might have come from a back-formation of "truckle" with the meaning "small wheel", "pulley", from Middle English trokell, in turn from Latin trochlea. Another explanation is that it comes from Latin trochus with the meaning of "iron hoop".

In turn, both go back to Greek trokhos (τροχός) meaning "wheel" from trekhein (τρέχειν, "to run"). The first known usage of "truck" was in 1611 when it referred to the small strong wheels on ships' cannon carriages. In its extended usage it came to refer to carts for carrying heavy loads, a meaning known since 1771. With the meaning of "motor-powered load carrier", it has been in usage since 1930, shortened from "motor truck", which dates back to 1916.

"Lorry" has a more uncertain origin, but probably has its roots in the railroad industry, where the word is known to have been used in 1838 to refer to a type of truck (a freight car as in British usage, not a bogie as in the American), specifically a large flat wagon. It probably derives from the verb lurry (to pull, tug) of uncertain origin. With the meaning of "self-propelled vehicle for carrying goods" it has been in usage since 1911

In the United States, Canada and Philippines "truck" is usually reserved for commercial vehicles larger than normal cars including pickups and other vehicles having an open load bed. In Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the word "truck" is mostly reserved for larger vehicles; in Australia and New Zealand, a pickup truck is usually called a ute (short for "utility"), while in South Africa it is called a bakkie (Afrikaans: "container").

In the United Kingdom, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Ireland and Hong Kong lorry is used instead of truck, but only for the medium and heavy types.

In American English, the word "truck" is often preceded by a word describing the type of vehicle, such as a "fire truck" or "tanker truck". In British English these would be referred to as "fire engine" and "tanker" or "petrol tanker", respectively. In Canada and the United States, "fire engine" is also used.

In Australia and New Zealand, the term 'ute' (short for 'coupé utility') is used to describe a pickup truck with an open cargo carrying space but a front similar to a passenger car, and which requires only a passenger car license to drive.

The concept was developed in 1933 by Lewis Bandt of the Ford Motor Company in Geelong following a request from a Gippsland farmer's wife for a vehicle that they could go to church in on Sunday without getting wet and also use to take the pigs to market on Monday

Please say NO NO NO to Fireworks, please be the voice of our four-legged friends...
(Print these posters and put them up on your office notice boards please)

Say NO to Fireworks   Say NO to Fireworks

Arrive Alive  


In the United States, a commercial driver's license is required to drive any type of commercial vehicle weighing 26,001 lb (11,794 kg) or more.

The United Kingdom and the rest of Europe now have common, yet complex rules (see European driving licence). As an overview, to drive a vehicle weighing more than 7,500 kilograms (16,535 lb) for commercial purposes requires a specialist licence (the type varies depending on the use of the vehicle and number of seats). For licences first acquired after 1997, that weight was reduced to 3,500 kilograms (7,716 lb), not including trailers.

In Australia, a truck driver's license is required for any motor vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) exceeding 4,500 kilograms (9,921 lb). The motor vehicles classes are further expanded as:

  • LR: Light rigid: a rigid vehicle with a GVM of more than 4,500 kilograms (9,921 lb) but not more than 8,000 kilograms (17,637 lb). Any towed trailer must not weigh more than 9,000 kilograms (19,842 lb) GVM.
  • MR: Medium rigid: a rigid vehicle with 2 axles and a GVM of more than 8,000 kilograms (17,637 lb). Any towed trailer must not weigh more than 9,000 kilograms (19,842 lb) GVM. Also includes vehicles in class 'LR'.
  • HR: Heavy Rigid: a rigid vehicle with 3 or more axles and a GVM of more than 8,000 kilograms (17,637 lb)). Any towed trailer must not weigh more than 9,000 kilograms (19,842 lb)) GVM. Also includes articulated buses and vehicles in class 'MR'.
  • HC: Heavy Combination, a typical prime mover plus semi trailer combination.
  • MC: Multi Combination e.g. B Doubles/Road trains.

There is also a heavy vehicle transmission condition for a licence class HR, HC or MC test passed in a vehicle fitted with an automatic or synchromesh transmission, a driver’s licence will be restricted to vehicles of that class fitted with a synchromesh or automatic transmission .

To have the condition removed, a person needs to pass a practical driving test in a vehicle with non synchromesh transmission (constant mesh or crash box).

In 2006, the U.S. trucking industry employed 1.8 million drivers of heavy trucks. There are around 5 million truck drivers in India

Truck Accidents

Almost all trucks share a common construction: they are made of a chassis, a cab, an area for placing cargo or equipment, axles, suspension and roadwheels, an engine and a drivetrain. Pneumatic, hydraulic, water, and electrical systems may also be identified. Many also tow one or more trailers or semi-trailers.


The cab is an enclosed space where the driver is seated. A sleeper is a compartment attached to the cab where the driver can rest while not driving, sometimes seen in semi-trailer trucks.

There are several possible cab configurations:

Cab over engine (COE) or flat nose; where the driver is seated above the front axle and the engine. This design is almost ubiquitous in Europe, where overall truck lengths are strictly regulated, but also widely used in the rest of the world as well. They were common in North America, but lost prominence when permitted length was extended in the early 1980s.

To access the engine, the whole cab tilts forward, earning this design the name of tilt-cab. This type of cab is especially suited to the delivery conditions in Europe where many roads follow the layout of much more ancient path, and trackways which require the additional turning capability given by the short wheelbase of the cab over engine type.

The COE design was invented by Viktor Schreckengost.
Conventional cabs are the most common in North America and Australia, and are known in the UK as American cabs and in the Netherlands as "torpedo cabs". The driver is seated behind the engine, as in most passenger cars or pickup trucks. Conventionals are further divided into large car and aerodynamic designs.

A "large car" or "long nose" is a conventional truck with a long (6-to-8-foot or 1.8-to-2.4 m or more) hood. Aerodynamic cabs are very streamlined, with a sloped hood and other features to lower drag.
Cab beside engine designs also exist, but are rather rare and are mainly used inside shipping yards, or other specialist uses such as aircraft baggage loading.


Trucks contribute to air, noise, and water pollution similarly to automobiles. Trucks may emit lower air pollution emissions than cars per equivalent vehicle mass, although the absolute level per vehicle distance traveled is higher, and diesel particulate matter is especially problematic for health.

With respect to noise pollution, trucks emit considerably higher sound levels at all speeds compared to typical car; this contrast is particularly strong with heavy-duty trucks. There are several aspects of truck operations that contribute to the overall sound that is emitted. Continuous sounds are those from tires rolling on the roadway, and the constant hum of their diesel engines at highway speeds. Less frequent noises, but perhaps more noticeable, are things like the repeated sharp-pitched whistle of a turbocharger on acceleration, or the abrupt blare of an exhaust brake retarder when traversing a downgrade.

There has been noise regulation put in place to help control where and when the use of engine braking retarders are allowed.
Concerns have been raised about the effect of trucking on the environment, particularly as part of the debate on global warming. In the period from 1990 to 2003, carbon dioxide emissions from transportation sources increased by 20%, despite improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency.

In 2005, transportation accounted for 27% of U.S. greenhouse gas emission, increasing faster than any other sector.Between 1985 and 2004, in the U.S., energy consumption in freight transportation grew nearly 53%, while the number of ton-miles carried increased only 43%. "Modal shifts account for a nearly a 23% increase in energy consumption over this period. Much of this shift is due to a greater fraction of freight ton-miles being carried via truck and air, as compared to water, rail, and pipelines Crash Statistics

Accidents Waiting To Happen

Latest research shows that overworked and tired truck drivers, especially those who are overweight, have an increased risk of having a sleep-related road accident.

The research findings from the Brain Function Research Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand and a Canadian sleep disorders laboratory was compiled from questionnaire-based interviews with 102 long-haul truck drivers across South Africa.

The problem appears global - evidence suggests that many long-haul drivers do not get sufficient sleep to maintain alertness.

About 13% of Australian truck drivers obtain less than four hours of sleep per day, with one third working in excess of 72 hours per week. In South Africa, almost one-third reported sleeping less than 4 hours per day.

It is widely accepted that both fatigue and sleep deprivation are major contributors to truck accidents.

According to the report by Maldonado and her colleagues, published in the South African Journal of Science, police records for two major roads in South Africa show that falling asleep at the wheel contributed to a quarter or more road accidents involving heavy vehicles.


But why do drivers fall asleep?

According to the survey, three quarters of truck drivers reported being tired on the job due to long working hours, working approximately 93 hours a week, with half of them getting less than 5 hours of sleep per day.

The South African Labour Relations Act (currently being revised by the National Department of Transport) restricts working to 71 hours per week, in this type of work, including overtime. These restrictions cannot be enforced and drivers are under pressure to supplement their income and to meet company expectations.
For those drivers who do manage to get some sleep in their truck, Maldonado and her team reported that their sleep was interrupted mostly by noise as well as light, outside activity and extremes of heat or cold.

Almost eight out of 10 of the drivers surveyed complained of interrupted sleep; in this case poor sleep is associated with up to 62% of incidents where drivers nodded off at the wheel, increasing the risk of causing a road accident.

But there is more to it.

The research team showed that the problem is compounded by sleep disorders such as apnoea and snoring, which show an unusually high prevalence in long-haul truck drivers. These disorders have been shown to increase sleepiness and reduce attention.

Drivers who admit to snoring or experience signs indicative of sleep apnoea, or other sleep complaints, show a two-fold increase in sleep-related road accidents compared with drivers without sleep disorders. Sleep apnoea is characterised by loud snoring and respiratory pauses.
Sleep apnoeics tend to stop breathing while asleep, wake up gasping for breath and then start snoring again once they return to sleep.

When sufferers stop breathing their brain is forced to wake them up to start breathing again. In cases of severe sleep apnoea, this can occur up to 600 times per night, meaning that they also are waking up that many times in a night.

Drivers who snore or show signs indicative of sleep apnoea are also more likely to be overweight.

Obese drivers who snore or experience excessive daytime sleepiness fall asleep at the wheel more often and are twice as likely to have an accident compared to those who do not snore.

There also appears to be a correlation between severe sleep apnoea and heart failure and the likelihood of getting strokes or hypertension.

The human body follows an internally generated sleep-wake cycle governed predominantly by the production of a hormone known as melatonin. Melatonin production during darkness stimulates sleep, while low levels of melatonin, usually in periods of light exposure, signals wakefulness. Almost all the drivers interviewed stated that they started driving between 1 am and 8 am, a period when melatonin levels are high and the stimulus for sleep is also high.

The highest incidence of sleep-related vehicle accidents occurs between midnight and 6 am, coinciding with the circadian dip in alertness. Regularising sleep-wake cycles can improve alertness and reduces sleepiness.

Enforcing the regulations

According to Maldonado and team, South African truck drivers are at risk of causing sleep-related accidents as much as other truck drivers in more affluent countries, except that truck drivers in South Africa also have to contend with unsafe social circumstances and poor conditions at truck stops. The study recommends shortening driving time and working hours, increasing time for sleep and relaxation, rescheduling driving trips towards regular work hours, improving sleep conditions for truck drivers, and also treating sleep disorders and obesity where they occur.

Driving while deprived of sleep poses a risk to all road users. Regulations should be enforced at the company level.

Bus and minibus accidents have been a factor in giving South Africa a bad reputation internationally, but what do the statistics say? And how accurate are these statistics? UDO RYPSTRA ponders these questions in the first of three articles …The South African minibus, bus and coach industry − drivers in particular − has the reputation for having one of the worst accident rates in the world. Two World Health Organisation (WHO) reports – one in 2000 and the latest issued last year – have endorsed the reputation.And, when it comes to the severity of our accidents, we appear to be second on the global list.

  According to Wikipedia, which lists more than 200 “notable historical road accidents” which occurred around the world between 2000 and 2010, the Bethlehem bus crash on 1 May 2003 is quoted as “one of the worst vehicle accidents of all time, when a coach drove into a reservoir near the town of Bethlehem, South Africa, killing 80 passengers.” The bus was transporting 90 South African trade union delegates to May Day celebrations in the town of Qwa-Qwa in the Free State. Note that a Lagos (Nigeria) road tanker which slammed into a traffic tailback, exploding and killing nearly 200 people in 2000, heads the list.

Accidents like these make front page news all over the world and so do bus and coach accidents in which foreign tourists are killed. Not listed by Wikipedia as it occurred before 2000, is an accident on 27 September 1999, when a coach veered off a pass near Nelspruit and rolled down a steep embankment, killing 28 elderly British tourists and a tourist guide.

Also not listed is a crash which occurred on 10 June last year when three young British students on their way from Swaziland to Nelspruit, were killed near Barberton. Both accidents were reported with screaming headlines in the British daily press, reporting that the drivers and unroadworthiness of the vehicles were to blame, intensifying our local industry’s bad reputation.

The severity of accidents is one thing, but only four SA road accidents – one involving a truck carrying 19 passengers (not a bus) − are mentioned on the Wikipedia site, with most of the other bus accidents having occurred in developing or undeveloped African and Asian countries.

The frequency of road accidents or road accident mortality rates per country is another issue, and in this instance South Africa also appears close to the top of the list of “baddies”. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which monitors road death statistics from 178 participating member countries, including SA, motor collisions are the 6th most common cause of death (going for 5th) in developed nations with an average rate of 20,8 per 100 000/population in the year 2000 (30,8 for males, 11,0 for females).

  In the year 2000, a widely published survey found that African nations had the world’s highest road traffic mortality rates, with most countries having a rate of more than 30, Eritrea having the highest rate of 48,4 in the world, compared to the low rates given for Sweden (2,9), United Kingdom (3,5), Holland (4,1), Germany (5,5) and France (6,9). In the 2000 survey, South Africa’s rate was given as 33,2, which was almost three times higher than the rate for the United States (12,3). But that was 11 years ago. What is SAs rate now?












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