It’s no secret that the country’s roads are in poor condition if you reside in South Africa. There are relatively few roads in Durban where you can go for a considerable amount of time without swerving to avoid a pothole. In fact, municipal roads and some minor provincial roads in several provinces are reportedly in disrepair, according to Peter Olytt, chief executive of Indwe Risk Services.
“This poses serious risks to drivers and, as a result, we’re still seeing a steady increase in pothole-related insurance claims,” he said. Operation Vala Zonke, which attempts to remove potholes, was just recently introduced by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.
The minister claims that while struggling with a budget and skill gap, SA has an almost R200 billion backlog in road development and maintenance. According to Mbalula, 40% of the provincial network had reached the end of its useful life, while 80% of national roads had outlived their projected 20-year lifespan. The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) is leading Operation Vala Zonke, which will include resealing, fixing blacktop, filling potholes, and maintaining gravel roads.
What to do if you’ve hit a pothole:
- Find a safe place to pull over onto the shoulder or curb of the road.
- As you drive, take note of the steering. Assess whether the vehicle is shuddering or pulling to one side, which may indicate an alignment issue.
- Also, listen and feel for any impact on your vehicle suspension.
- Once safely parked, check for any visible signs of damage to the exterior and underneath your vehicle.
- Call for emergency or roadside assistance and remain alert for your personal safety.
How to claim after hitting a pothole:
- To make an insurance claim, you’ll be required to record the details of the incident and attach the following when you submit your claim form
- A police affidavit.
- Copy of claimant’s driving license (in case of vehicle damage).
- Vehicle registration documents (in case of vehicle damage).
- Copy of ID.
- Photos of the pothole/trench/manhole/object that damaged your car.
- Invoice/proof of payment, if applicable.
Olytt urged motorists to use Sanral’s new pothole app to hasten the implementation of government initiatives.“Potholes impact all road users. Working together, we can all support efforts to adequately upgrade, repair and maintain South Africa’s roads – for safer roads, both now and for years to come,” he said.
Through the Rural Road Asset Management Systems Grant (RRAMSG), as mandated by the Division of Revenue Act, the Department of Transportation assists District Municipalities with “Road Infrastructure Planning” (DORA).
Damage to vehicles
The alarming state of the country’s roadways is causing damage to vehicles of all types, including lorries and trailers.National truck and trailer manufacturer Serco claims that as a result, repair sales have increased significantly.According to Charl Coetzee, managing director of Serco, potholes and damaged portions of roads are frequently not repaired well and quickly deteriorate once again. In certain regions, locals have started rebuilding roads on their own own.
“We are seeing a lot of damage to suspensions, tyres, and rims, and airbags on heavy vehicles – a large amount of which has been caused by the state of roads in some parts of our country,” said Coetzee.
“The increasing age of fleets is also contributing towards more maintenance being needed to retain the vehicle integrity and limit costly breakdowns. Delays with new replacement vehicles are however expected to continue this year and into 2023.”
“My personal opinion is that in the interests of the economy as well as motorists generally, South Africa needs a concerted national effort from authorities all over the country to rebuild our road network rather than doing patch-up jobs which often don’t last.
“An efficient road transport network is vital for the prosperity of South Africa – the industry cannot perform at its optimum if so many roads are in a mess.”
A national grocery chain representative, who wished to remain unnamed, claimed that many South African roads, particularly those in urban and semi-urban regions, were in bad shape and that potholes posed a serious risk to the group’s trucks and trailers.
He claimed that, particularly in rural locations on poorly maintained roads, their vehicles also sustained damage from overhanging branches.
“We experience damage where our vehicles are unable to avoid potholes while branches from overhanging trees cause damage to windscreens, cabs, fridges, boxes, and branding on the side of our big trailers. Our focus is on the safety of our drivers and the current general condition of roads puts our drivers at risk. In some areas in South Africa, we specify that our trailers must be fitted with dual tyres to mitigate the risk of blowouts.”
The government has said that it will focus on physical projects like resealing, fixing blacktop, filling potholes, and maintaining gravel roads. One of the initiatives to which authorities have committed is the upkeep of around 20,000 km of South Africa’s secondary road network by March of the following year. These are provincial highways that require immediate improvement to a passable condition of maintenance.
The following five elements are thought to have the most influence on how well pavement performs and how quickly potholes emerge, according to minister:
- Traffic is the most important factor influencing pavement performance. The performance of pavements is mostly influenced by the loading magnitude, configuration, and the number of load repetitions by heavy vehicles.
- Moisture can significantly weaken the support strength of natural gravel materials, especially the subgrade.
- The subgrade is the underlying soil that supports the applied wheel loads. If the subgrade is too weak to support the wheel loads, the pavement will flex excessively which ultimately causes the pavement to fail.
- Failure to obtain proper compaction, improper moisture conditions during construction, quality of materials, and accurate layer thickness (after compaction) all directly affect the performance of a pavement.
- Pavement performance depends on what, when, and how maintenance is performed. No matter how well the pavement is built, it will deteriorate over time based on the above-mentioned factors.