May 7, 2016
There are a lot of large (“18-wheeler”-type) transport trucks in Tanzania and Malawi. It seems like more than half of them are petrol or diesel tankers.
There are no large tow trucks or wreckers.
So when a large truck breaks down in the traffic lane, the first thing that happens is the driver pulls out his machete and chops some tree limbs to put in the road ahead and behind the truck to warn other drivers. This is the equivalent of the red reflective triangle or orange traffic cone.
Since there are no large wreckers, there is no way to tow the truck off the road. Ever. Thus, the truck will remain in the traffic lane until one of two things happens:
- It is repaired. This could take days or even weeks. I’ve passed trucks with tarps set up next to them while people worked on them in the road. It’s common to see multiple pairs of legs sticking out into traffic from under the truck. I’ve seen gallons of diesel fuel and oil running back down the mountain road from where the truck sat, and I’ve even passed two trucks now which had the entire engine out and sitting in the traffic lane in front of the truck. All of the other pieces necessary to remove the engine were scattered all over the road as well. OR
- It is completely stripped, piece by piece, until nothing remains but the bare frame, at which point the frame is either dragged into the ditch or loaded onto a flatbed. I’ve seen lots of cars and overturned trucks in the ditch being completely salvaged, until nothing remained but a truck frame or a car uni-body. Literally everything was gone: there wasn’t a piece of wire or plastic cap or bolt left on the car chassis.