Commercial vehicles under siege

According to Cartrack, the incidence of hijacking across commercial and private vehicles has risen sharply in the last year.
South Africa’s official crime statistics show a 12,3% increase in carjacking to 11 221 reported cases in the last year while truck hijackings have increased by 5,1% from 943 incidences to 991.

Trucks, in particular, are hijacked for various reasons. “Hijackers may be looking for a specific cargo, such as high value electronic goods or grocery items, among others. On other occasions the actual vehicle or its trailers may be the target,” explains Jerry Pierce, operations manager at Cartrack.

“Cargo items find their way back into the economy, the black market or are shipped cross border, while vehicles and trailers are stripped for parts, shipped cross border or are simply relicensed with the aid of corrupt officials and put back on our roads,” he adds.

Truck hijackings and the subsequent loss of commercial vehicles and trailers in addition to valuable cargos cost the economy and insurance industry billions each year. Small fleet operators are particularly hard hit. “It is not so much having to replace the vehicle and its cargo, but the reputational damage that comes with it,” explains Pierce.

There are many Modus Operandi that criminals employ. “We have however noticed an uptick in incidents involving notorious ‘blue light gangs’ that are operational in Gauteng at present. Another tactic is the ‘good Samaritan’ approach where a road user will indicate to a truck driver that there is a problem at the back of the truck and when the driver pulls over, they find themselves the victim of a hijacking,” explains Pierce.

While every fleet owner and driver will undoubtedly make every effort to avoid a hijacking scenario, a life is more important. Following is some practical advice, in the event of a hijacking:

* Be aware of what is happening around you.
* It is important to realise that there is often nothing you can do other than to cooperate.
* As difficult as it may sound, try and remain calm, as the hijacker will respond according to your reactions.
* Acknowledge the hijacker’s presence, don’t make eye contact and keep your hands visible.
* At all times, let the hijacker(s) know what you are doing and don’t make any sudden moves.

Cartrack provides these guidelines as a means to raise awareness and vigilance. “It is very important to know how hijackers operate, how to avoid being hijacked and what to do if you are confronted with a hijacking scenario. Be alert and stay safe out there,” concludes Pierce.

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