Greetings from a warm and sunny South Africa!
Christmas in the southern hemisphere is associated with summer holidays, which in South Africa means that from the beginning of December (when schools close) hundreds of thousands of people head for the coast and the beaches or to visit their families, particularly from the densely populated Johannesburg-Pretoria area. Unfortunately, this also brings serious fatal crashes, particularly when passenger vehicles are involved. Almost two weeks ago I drove from Pretoria to Durban (650 km) with my two teenage children to visit their Grandma. We left at 05:45 and I heard on the 06:00 news that there had been a serious crash at 02:00 on the Jhb-Durban highway involving a truck and a mini-bus taxi. The driver of the taxi had either fallen asleep or lost concentration for some seconds, resulting in the taxi crossing the painted median into the two oncoming lanes. The taxi was certified to carry 23 passengers, but at the time was loaded with 35 passengers. The result of the head-on collision was 30 fatalities plus serious injuries. We passed the scene of the crash at around 9:00 and I was overcome with emotion regarding this tragedy and senseless waste of life.
During the next few days, various thoughts went through my mind relating to this crash. One was a renewed sense of purpose in terms of various projects in which I am involved. One such project is the Road Transport Management System accreditation scheme, which promotes the adoption of standards by transport operators, consignors & consignees relating to vehicle loading, maintenance and driver wellness & training. There are now approximately 1 500 trucks participating in the RTMS scheme in South Africa, and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) is planning to run a pilot project on the North-South Corridor involving Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Also, there is the performance-based standards project, which results in heavy vehicles that are dynamically more stable when undertaking various manoeuvres. 36 “Smart Truck” demonstration vehicles are currently in operation and this number should have doubled by the end of 2012.
I also experienced a sense of pride in being involved in the IFRTT, an organisation that has members and affiliates all over the world who are actively involved in improving, amongst others, the safety of vehicles, trucks in particular. To those of you that are involved in such road or vehicle safety work: keep it up. The need out there, particularly in developing countries where road fatalities are generally orders of magnitude greater than in the developed world, is great.
70 abstracts have been received for the HVTT12 conference in Stockholm in September 2012. These will be allocated to members of the scientific committee early in the New Year for review, so authors can expect their reviewed abstracts towards during February.
DIS (Draft International Standard)/ISO 39001: Road Traffic Safety Management Systems has been approved by the ISO/PC 241 committee and the comments received will be addressed at the next meeting from 20 to 24 February in Johannesburg.
I wish you and your families and loved ones a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and everything of the best for 2012. And please drive safely and responsibly.