Relative to most of the other people in our offices, I live out in the sticks on the very outskirts of Dubai. By that I mean cross the road and there is nothing left of the metropolis, just sand, Land Cruiser drag races and oryx. Because of the unfinished access to the community I live in it is necessary to take the remote Dubai Bypass Road to get home.
Often this means I’m sharing six lanes with the heavy trucks that use the road to avoid the ban on peak hour driving through the city. Away from the patrolled inner roads and industrial areas, it also seems to be where they go to test the very outer limits of their vehicle’s abilities.
Long sweeping interchanges become high speed corners to feel the excitement of leaning several tonnes of concrete against gravity. Endless straights the perfect place to ignore recommended speed limits and get over taking that truck ahead that is going at 2 km/h less. It’s classic truck driver stuff and not unique to Dubai or the region at all, but then most places in the world don’t have the same volume of traffic, travelling at that speeds in temperatures regularly passing 45 degrees.
For reasons that shouldn’t surprise anyone, there are a lot of blow-outs on the road. One hill in particular is layered in rubber by August forcing other road users to swerve and sway into the path of trucks to avoid the litter.
The RTA is currently considering following international practice on spot testing tyre pressure and quality that could force companies to put pressure on drivers and fleet managers to take greater responsibility. It has already said that it will take company licences away if drivers fail its random vehicle defect clearing system.
I support them in their efforts but on the outskirts of Dubai, I have my doubts that offenders will be caught. In fact unless the spot checks spread to roads like the Bypass Road then careless companies and drivers will continue to run the gauntlet on safety.
It amazes me that some firms are still sending out reckless drivers in trucks dressed up in their branding and logos. We’ve now had many years of truck and driver safety campaigns and yet it is often difficult to see a change in truck driver habits. When you’ve seen full trucks tipped on their sides and passenger cars crushed and in flames because a truck driver failed to brake properly like I have, then there comes a point you realise that something must be done.
To my embarrassment I’ve never phoned a number on the back of trucks that have a ‘Am I driving safely?’ sticker. But, no more. The high temperatures may be starting to ease off, but it is time to start turning up the heat on drivers and companies to take other road user lives seriously.