Howard Dembovsky
2 minute read
11 Feb 2015
2:00 pm

Transporters of kids need subsidies

Howard Dembovsky

The practice of carrying people on light deliveryvehicles, which we call "bakkies" in South Africa, is perfectly legal, provided that the bakkie has sides of a height greater than 35cm, people sit on the floor of the load bay and are physically separated from tools.

What’s more, so long as you don’t exceed the vehicle’s gross vehicle mass (GVM), you may transport as many people as you like on the back of bakkies, despite what the licence disc says about how many persons that vehicle is certified to carry and that those in the back have zero protection in the event of a crash.

Ten people were killed and 11 others injured when the bakkie they were travelling in crashed on the N3 in Johannesburg on Saturday. It was clearly overloaded. Last Wednesday, seven school kids were killed and 15 others injured when the bakkie they were travelling in crashed into a house in Pietermaritzburg. That bakkie was reportedly carrying 34 kids!

We find ourselves asking “why isn’t carrying people on the backs of bakkies simply outlawed”? I have been actively campaigning to ban this practice. Then on Wednesday night, while participating in a radio debate on a KZN radio channel, I found myself being sensitized to the realities that low income parents who do love their children face, alongside providers of pupil transportation.

In the rural areas of KZN, and one can only assume elsewhere, there are two choices – make your kids walk vast distances to school and back, or pay a “scholar transport provider” around R300 a month per child to drive them, albeit on the back of a bakkie.

It’s easy to say “use a bus” without considering the ability of parents to pay transport costs. It’s also the easiest thing to then say “don’t overload them”.

The reality, however, is that these transport operators couldn’t afford to make a meagre living without overloading. Consider that loading 34 kids onto the back of a bakkie at R300 a pop equates to R10 200 a month and then ask yourself if you could afford to pay off a bus and a driver.

If we want to ban conveying people on the back of bakkies, government simply has to come to the party and subsidise these operators.