Desmond Munemo, H-Metro Reporter
THERE are genuine fears that government’s efforts to help citizens with affordable transport will fail if authorities at the Zimbabwe United Passengers Company do not address the rising accidents involving their new fleet.
Government is in the process of acquiring brand new buses for ZUPCO but while the process is ongoing, a number of the commissioned vehicles have been involved in fatal accidents.
A number of the brand new buses have been written off in the accidents, depleting a fleet that is still way below desired targets to effectively serve the country battling high transport costs by unscrupulous operators.
Following a horrific week marred by two accidents, some transport experts have urged ZUPCO to take its personnel for further training to reduce road carnages and preserve the fleet.
On Monday, six people died on the spot and another died on admission at Kwekwe General Hospital after a Harare bound ZUPCO bus sideswiped with a Honda fit vehicle resulting in both drivers losing control of both vehicles.
The accident happened just outside Kwekwe.
On Tuesday, 27 people were injured when a ZUPCO bus bound for Harare veered off the road and overturned near Beatrice.
The Zimbabwe Republic police attributes most accidents to human error and in most of the accidents involving the Zupco buses, speeding is being cited as a possible contributing factor.
Kwekwe accident on Monday
Some transport experts contacted by H-Metro yesterday felt that ZUPCO had not given their drivers adequate training before deploying them and hiring inexperienced ones previously operating kombis.
One, who preferred anonymity citing professional reasons, said the new ZUPCO buses brought in have a new device which most of the drivers are not familiar with.
“These new ZUPCO buses now come with an electric retarder switch which holds up the whole prop shaft; when it is applied and the drivers could be pushing this switch during emergencies.
“When a retarder switch is applied, it binds the back wheels making it very difficult to control the vehicle and the bus will definitely overturn.
“They must be taught how to use the retarder because it is commonly used especially on hills and when the bus is moving slowly.
“When it is raining, that switch is dangerous if it’s turned on since it has more grip than a hand or foot brake and a driver will not be able to control a speeding bus.
“They must stop using it.
“We teach our drivers how to use the switch before they even go any further and it is a prerequisite,” he said.
“I feel the bus company should emphasise on recruiting well experience drivers than these young fellows who are so fond of speeding,” said the transport operator.
Another operator said long back ZUPCO bus accidents were rare but now it showed that something had really changed in the system.
According to mechanical information, a retarder is a device used to augment or replace some of the functions of primary friction-based braking systems, usually on heavy vehicles.
Retarders serve to slow vehicles, or maintain a steady speed while traveling down a hill, and help prevent the vehicle from running away by accelerating down the hill.
They are not usually capable of bringing vehicles to a standstill, as their effectiveness diminishes as vehicle speed lowers.
They are usually used as an additional assistance to slow vehicles, with the final braking done by a conventional friction braking system.
Friction-based braking systems are susceptible to “brake fade” when used extensively for continuous periods, which can be dangerous if braking performance drops below what is required to stop the vehicle – for instance if a truck or bus is descending a long decline.
For this reason, such heavy vehicles are frequently fitted with a supplementary system, a retarder that is not friction-based.