The Taxi Recapitalisation Programme
Inevitably, the National Taxi Drivers’ Organisation has asked my friend, Philemon Tshabalala, the demon taxi-driver of Diepsloot, to road-test these new, safer 18 and 35 seater maxi-taxis. The Transport Minister wants these vehicles to replace the notoriously dangerous minibus taxis. Otherwise known as High Impact African Culling Equipment (HiAce for short),
Philemon’s’ report has caused a stir among the manufacturers,
Maxi-taxi road test by Philemon Tshabalala:
‘My test shows that the 35-seater holds 157 passengers, at a squeeze, so to speak. The roof managed to support a good three tons of luggage, chickens, goats and building material. This is a big advantage over the minibuses. Despite a cargo of this magnitude, during my test run to Pietersburg, the vehicle handled well and experienced very few serious accidents. I did encounter one blow out on the left rear tyre where Mrs Gumbe was sitting she does weigh a lot I think more than 240 kgs
At one time the back assembly became incandescent or glowing a red colour because the handbrake had been left on. This ignited the petrol tank, but most passengers managed to alight. (Alert readers will spot Philemons’ little pun.) We however managed to repair the bus at the roadside with pieces of corrugated iron and wire using a hammer and resumed our journey.
The bus, now reduced to a 26-seater, was in fact now much easier to handle, especially when cornering at speeds in excess of 160kms per hour. I liked the 18-seater as It can accommodate 77 passengers – nine under the seats and one in the spacious engine compartment (at reduced fare.) It put up an impressive performance on the Soweto route, but only after the electronic speed-governor had been neutralised by striking it with a pipe wrench. This speed control device will not be well accepted. Crawling down the Soweto highway at a governed 60 km/h would certainly be inviting parking tickets as well as hubcap thieves. Talking of which, the wheels in both versions do not take BMW hubcaps – drivers are not going to like this.
The automatic hydraulic door is a big advantage over the minibus’ sliding door. If the passengers’ appendages are left sticking out, the sliding doors tend to guillotine them off, causing much smarting of the eyes. I was pleased to note that the maxi-taxi’s automatic doors, as they swing shut, tend to painlessly compress the passenger-load as opposed to trimming its edges. Passengers are going to welcome this Seat belts on all seats. This cuts by one third the number of passengers who are propelled to the front of the vehicle every time the brakes are applied.
A warning: these buses may be safer than combi taxis, but when one is forced to take to the pavements in rush hour, they are decidedly less safe and badly frighten the pedestrians. However, the power steering does allow one to jink and manoeuvre among the traffic lanes without rolling the vehicle, which is a big time-saver as having to get everybody out to roll the taxi back onto its wheels is time consuming.
It was, I must say, rather nice driving a bus with sturdy side-panels which do not flex like lungs when one plays music, and neither do the windows pop out, even when I play my Nine Inch Nails’ C.D. at a maximum volume creating some 210 decibels. Altogether I liked the package immensely
End of Report