Sagekal in soup again

2013-10-07 00:00

TRANSPORT MEC Willies Mchunu has reacted with shock after The Witness revealed that Sagekal Logistics, owners of the truck involved in the recent Field’s Hill accident that claimed the lives of 23 people, maintain and repair their own trucks.

Truck companies that service their trucks internally are likely to cut costs at the expense of other road users, he said.

Sagekal Logistics and its owner Gregory Govender have vehemently denied claims that the truck’s brakes were faulty, leading to the truck ploughing into four taxis and a car on September 5.

The company has pointed the finger at driver Sanele May, saying it had evidence he had been speeding prior to the crash.

Collision reconstruction expert Stan Bezuidenhout has insisted there was no evidence to suggest the brake system was compromised prior to May’s departure, as new brake linings were fitted to the vehicle and it was tested before he left for Johannesburg.

Responding to questions from The Witness, Bezuidenhout said: “The vehicle was recalled from service by the owner and was serviced at his premises, by his technical team.”

Asked about paper work that proves the vehicle was serviced, Bezuidenhout said he was not in possession of clearance certificates.

“I do not typically get involved in the administrative aspects of vehicles — so I don’t receive copies until much later,” he added.

Queried further on the qualifications of Govender’s technical team, he referred The Witness to the company’s spokesperson Lisa Sukdev and Govender’s attorney Theasen Pillay, who did not respond to the inquiry.

On September 22, Transport Department officials paid Sagekal Logistics a surprise visit and found some trucks with mechanical defects, including defective brakes and oil leaks.

This was after traffic officers pulled over and impounded another truck belonging to Sagekal Logistics, after apparently finding its brakes were faulty.

Department spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said Sagekal’s impounded trucks were suspended. “The company will have to repair those vehicles and once that is done, thorough roadworthiness tests will be performed before we can allow them back on the road,” he said.

Mchunu said he was not aware that Sagekal serviced their own vehicles.

“We will have to look at that. It is a major concern that in these in-house serviced trucks you find so many defects. With so many trucks and privately owned servicing facilities, this can lead to owners cutting costs at the expense of the lives of other road users. If we find out that you have many trucks and we find many defects in your trucks, then we will target your company to make sure that your fleet meets roadworthy standards,” he said.

Mchunu said he would propose a policy change to increase control of testing stations to improve the quality of work.

“We believe that ensuring control mechanisms is crucial if we are to improve accountability and monitoring of testing stations. We have already closed down 10 testing stations that were operating outside of the road traffic laws.

“We will soon also be serving notices of intention to suspend or cancel the registration of a number of vehicle examiners and vehicle testing stations as we intensify our drive to combat fraud and corruption in this aspect of transport.

“Undermining roadworthiness requirements in the manner some of those involved have been established is integrally linked to the high number of crashes and fatalities we see,” he said.

Sukdev said: “Mr Govender has no further comment in this matter. He remains committed to and supportive of the ongoing investigation and legal process.”

Road Freight Association (RFA) technical and operations manager Gavin Kelly said it was common in the freight transport industry for owners to service their own vehicles because it addressed issues such as excessive costs and vehicle downtime, and ensured that correct and timeous maintenance was done. However, he said this depended on hiring well trained, experienced and qualified people to perform the repairs and services.

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