The KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Mr. Willies Mchunu, officially unveiled new truck restriction signboards aimed at discouraging heavies from using the curvy road as they avoid the N3 tollgate today.
The new restrictions have been up for the last six months and already part of the increased law enforcement drive Mchunu ordered following the horrific M-13 (Pinetown) truck accident that claimed the lives of 24 people. This accident counts amongst the most gruesome this province and country have experienced.
It occurred on the Thursday evening, of the 5th of September last year, when a heavy truck crashed four minibus taxis and one light motor vehicle off Richmond Road in Pinetown.
Following the accident, MEC Mchunu ordered the introduction of new measures to restrict heavy trucks passing through M-13 (Fields Hill). In the immediate term, the following measures have been implemented as per the MEC’s commitment:
• Reduction of the carrying capacity of trucks using the route from 25-tonnes to 16-tonnes;
• Extension of the restriction times from 06:30 to 08:00 – to – 06:00 to 09:00 in the morning on the eastbound carriageway, from Hillcrest to Pinetown;
• Introduction of the afternoon restriction hours of between 16:00 to 18:30 on both directions;
• Beefing up of daily law enforcement by the department’s Road Traffic Inspectorate working with the Ethekwini Municipality metro police;
• Establishment of the permanent traffic monitoring stations on the M-13;
• Introduction of weigh-in-motion technology to determine the level of overloading on the M-13;
• Electronic surveillance and mass measuring – which is still in the process; and
• Restriction signboards have already been mounted from the N3-M13 off-ramp to Fields Hill in Pinetown.
In the long term, measures that the department is exploring include introducing Average Speed and Intelligent Enforcement. As well, they include working with the national government to fast-track the implementation of the rail-to-road strategy, part of the Strategic Infrastructure Projects, which will reduce the heavy truck traffic especially to and from the Durban port.
Following the implementation of these measures, the department has also started tracking the average daily truck volumes.
Since the implementation of the restrictive measures in the beginning of 2014, average daily truck volumes indicate that in February heavies going to Pinetown through M-13 hit just below 2000 compared to 1000 of those using N3.
In March there was a sharp increase with heavies rising to about 2800 on the M-13 versus 1700 on the N3.However, the daily traffic volumes have stabilised from May to August at approximately 1 400 trucks passing through M-13 compared to below 1 000 using the N3.
In terms of the accidents’ reports, there is also a clear drop in crashes post the accident. For example, between October to December 2013, crashes recorded were 113, and there were no fatalities. These were down from the comparable period in 2012 where crashes involving all vehicles were 186, with 3 fatalities and 12 seriously injured. In addition, with beefed up law enforcement, between January and June this year, there were a total 1187 charges for various violations.
MEC Mchunu said it was clear that the measures were having the desired, positive impact even though more work still needed to be done.
“As we unveil the new restrictions at the 13 months mark since the M-13/ Pinetown tragic accident, we wish to call on all citizens and sectors of society – government, business, civil society organisations, the public transport industry, the trucking sector, and individual motorists – to take full responsibility for road safety. Unveiling the new signboards is a step towards fulfilling our commitments as part of honouring the lives of the 24 people we lost, and many more who have perished on our roads. Taking responsibility means strictly observing all traffic rules, paying traffic fines, not drinking and driving, always fastening seatbelts, and indeed driving roadworthy and fully licensed vehicles,” said Mchunu.
Mchunu also paid an unannounced visit to the Pinetown RTI station and inspected all operations from vehicle licensing to learner driver application processes. Here, he interacted with members of the public who complained about the waiting period and the frustrations relating to slow licensing processes.
“We would like to see the processes improved and functioning effectively. As we continue with the October Transport Month programme we are making it our business to monitor and assess all of our department’s operations with a clear view of achieving efficiencies,” said Mchunu.