The plight of South Africa’s long-distance truckers requires a lot of attention from all the other road users. Truck drivers wish that drivers of four-wheeled vehicles would give them a chance to ‘lecture’ them a thing or two about sharing the road.
I asked truckers from around Southern Africa to share their views on what other road users should do or know about them that could make sharing the road safer.
Responses came in by the hundreds, let’s just say, with practical advice about highway safety, strong pleas to put down those smartphones and requests to be treated with dignity.
Here is a sampling of their responses, edited and condensed.
“Truckers want to be seen (even if we are unseen, high up in our cabs) as fellow human beings, toiling long hours, who are conscientious and careful and want, above all, to get home safe to their loved ones.”
– Darling Gatsi, Durban. Driving for 4 years.
“Please be patient with truckers. We routinely see four-wheelers nearly kill themselves to not be caught behind a big truck. Take your time. Stay safe. I like to imagine all the cute little cars swarming around me as being driven by my brothers, my friends, my mom. I feel responsible for their safety.”
– Jasper Mayanga, Durban. Driving for 12 years.
“We can’t speed up or slow down as fast as you; therefore, you need to yield when coming onto the freeway. We can’t always move over. You also need to leave the gaps that we have created between us and vehicles ahead of us. Don’t zip in and out between. That area is our stopping cushion. At full speed it can take us a football field length or longer to come to a full stop. If we leave a gap, we’re trying to protect YOU. Don’t ride beside us; get in front or behind. If you’re riding beside us, we can’t always see you.”
— Tichaona M Bhebhe, Pietermaritzburg. Driving for 13 years.
“If it’s raining, and you STILL haven’t turned on your headlights, it won’t matter that I’ve checked my mirror SIX TIMES before changing lanes, because I CAN’T SEE YOU. My mirror is completely drenched from spray, road grime and rainfall. I NEED those headlights of yours to cut through it.”
— Mandla Vilakazi Joburg. Driving for 9 years.
“Please use your turn signals, that is the only way that we know what you are going to do. That perfect little spot between me and the car in front of me is not for you to go into; I need the extra stopping distance. Please learn the proper way to merge; I want to let you in, but I can’t force the person in the next lane off the road to let you in.”
– Ollias Sakupwanya, Johannesburg. Driving for 14 years.
“I am human. I am someone’s daughter, mother, sister and friend. I give up a lot so I can deliver food, materials you use at work and everything in between. Please show some respect.”
— Darren Scott, Cape Town. Driving for 6 years.
“Don’t hail insults at us when we slow down in bad weather, we slow down drastically to ensure your and our safety. Sometimes even 40km/h is too much in heavy rains or snow. We want you to have a long life.”
— Oliver Wezvo, Joburg. Driving for 14 years.
“For over a million kilometres I’ve driven a truck through all South African provinces, plus seven Southern African countries. I have driven in every kind of weather. I have also seen horrendous crashes that didn’t need to happen. Stop holding your phone everywhere you go. I’ve seen people texting at over 90km/h while they overtake me on South African freeways. Stop! Please!”
– Richard Ndlovu, Harare. Driving for 19 years.
“People have too many distractions while driving. Remember, I sit up high enough to see inside your car. I’ve seen drivers doing everything from makeup to reading, even sexual acts and, most commonly, playing and texting on the phone while doing 100km/h. That is a fast way to get killed.”
— Robert Schultz, Port Elizabeth. Driving for 24 years.
“When our wheels ain’t turning we are not making money. Working conditions are deplorable. We don’t have many healthy food options. So it’s not very difficult to make me angry, in short please don’t pick a fight with me.”
– BaTee, Durban. Driving for 6 years.
“We spend our lives eating junk so we can deliver steak for others to enjoy. We endure the weather to bring warm clothes and supplies to stores, parts for your cars — anything you need. All the time missing out on our kids’ first words, first steps, first crush. We’re not saints; we’re human, most of us doing a job we love. We work, sleep and eat in the same space. We do this days, weeks, months on end. We don’t often get to watch TV or a movie and eat our favorite food. We don’t ask for much, just respect.”
– Knowledge Mavhunga, Joburg. Driving for 12 years
“Finally, be thankful you get to go home at the end of your workday. For many of us truckers, something as simple as time at home, sleeping in our own beds, is a huge luxury.”
– Miriam Mzangaza, Newcastle. Driving for 10 years.