Transaid takes tyre training to Tanzania
During November and December Michelin Training Instructor Carl Williams visited Tanzania with Transaid to teach much-needed tyre safety skills. In this exclusive diary feature, he shares his experience with Tyres & Accessories.
The motivation behind transport industry charity Transaid’s involvement in African and Tanzania in particular is clear. Road deaths are the third biggest premature killer in sub-Saharan Africa. And this led to Carl Williams’ decision to volunteer within Michelin to visit Tanzania, located on the east coast of the continent, to help improve road safety. As one of the project’s supporters, Michelin agreed to send Williams on two-week secondment during November and December, teaching local driver trainers and road safety enforcers about correct tyre management and how to improve tyre safety in Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam.
The country suffers around 4,000 fatalities each year due to road crashes, and Transaid’s Professional Driver Training Project has been working closely with the country’s National Institute of Transport (NIT) to reduce that figure, with support from many UK companies.
It’s here, more than 4,700 miles away from the Michelin Training Centre in Stoke-on-Trent that the diary begins, reflecting on how transportation operates in one of the fastest growing cities in the world and how UK companies are working with Transaid to deliver valuable training which is helping save lives.
Sunday 25 November
“As soon as I step off the plane at Dar es Salaam airport the heat hits me like a tidal wave. It’s only 7am but the temperature is already rising steadily. My thoughts about how hot it might get at midday are interrupted when I am greeted by Neil Rettie, Transaid’s project manager for Tanzania, (and Artem Avdeev, a Russian national who is also on secondment from Norbert Dentressangle). Together we hail a taxi and head straight to the hotel so I can unpack, freshen up and settle in. Neil arranges to pick me up in the afternoon and we visit a resort on the edge of the Indian Ocean. The beach is picture-perfect, however we use our time here to discuss the task in hand for the coming fortnight.
Monday 26 November
I am excited to get to the NIT this morning to set up for the first day of training. I’m conducting two five-day courses, and in my first group I have 11 participants including instructors from the NIT and officers from the Tanzanian Police Force. Neil and I decide to split the day into three manageable parts, and once everyone is acquainted we go back to basics and start by discussing the history of tyres. We stop for morning chai, which is similar to a tea break, and I learn this is an important part of the day for the people of Tanzania. Afterwards we go into more detail about how tyres are designed and constructed, and what the various sidewall markings mean. The group are very attentive throughout the day and I’m pleased the class has got off to a good start.
Tuesday 27 November
We are making good progress with sidewall markings, so in order to give the class some practical knowledge I take them outside to see the different markings and learn about tyre segmentation. Whilst outside, one of the trainees shows me a tyre which has suffered from under-inflation so badly that it has delaminated. It’s a shocking sight, but it helps us to put some of our theory from yesterday into context.
As the day continues, it becomes very tough for everyone to bear the heat. We push on to complete the day, and agree that in the afternoons we would do a small amount of theory indoors, which would allow us to keep everyone motivated.
When we head back inside, I notice a man taking photographs of our group. He makes his way into the training room and offers his pictures to us, and it becomes clear he is trying to sell them to make some money for his family. My initial anxiety wanes as I realise he is harmless, and I sympathise with what he is trying to achieve.
Wednesday 28 November
The morning is very productive and we are able to cover wheel types, valves, tubes and fixings. After lunch we move on to wear and damage which sparks a lot of interest from the group. They ask a lot of questions during our theory session and seem enthusiastic to know more, so we take a walk over to a local scrap pile of casings so they can see some examples.
As we approach, we see a group of men removing the sidewalls of the tyres with sharp knives. I’m intrigued and surprised to hear they are removing the rubber so it can be used to make flip-flops – recycling in its simplest form! I also learn that the leftover casings, depleted of rubber, will be left here for someone else to use, and I’m quite inspired by their innovative thinking. Still, we manage to find some tyres with tread and sidewall rubber intact to examine wear and damage patterns.
Thursday 29 November
I’m interested to find out what happens locally when a tyre is damaged, so we begin with a conversation about repairs. It becomes apparent that the group has a completely different set of ideas as to what’s acceptable compared to UK standards, openly carrying out plug repairs – but most of the time relying on liquid sealant as a suitable repair measure. Sidewall repairs are also common, so we deliberate and as a result agree that these types of repairs are perhaps not advised due to the flexing of the sidewalls.
After chai we go through tyre fitting procedures and wheel security, which is also much different to back home. At the Michelin Training Centre – and when talking to our Michelin Certified Centres – I’m used to having the best equipment for the job, but in Tanzania the lack of equipment means that the only way wheels are tightened is using a socket and long bar.
Friday 30 November
The class come to work dressed to impress today as it is our final day together and they want to look smart for our group photo. There is a car parked outside the NIT and the group notices that something doesn’t look right with the wheels and fixings. Together we discover that the wheels are not the right size for the vehicle and that someone has modified them to fit. It seems this is a big problem in Tanzania, but I’m proud the class is able to diagnose the problem.
To finish off the week the class completes a quiz, and they are all eager to take home a certificate as evidence of their hard work. I’m thrilled that the group can now see that if they look after their tyres then they can not only extend tyre life, but also maximise road safety. I’m looking forward to getting stuck-in with my new group new week!
Monday 3 December
I start my second week with 13 participants, which rises to 15 during the course of the day. It’s a large group to keep focused and I’m conscious not to let anyone fall behind.
Tuesday 4 December
News about my class seems to have spread and today the group has increased to 18. It’s comforting to know I must be doing a good job as more people want to attend. We start with tyre segmentation and discuss the theory behind choosing the right tyre for the right job, and then we move on to configurations. The second class is advancing well so in the afternoon I take them outside to put what we have learnt about configurations into practice.
Wednesday 5 December
We continue with the course and head outside again to see some examples of wear and damage – a hot topic similar to last week. The same group of men are making rubber flip-flops and I am fascinated to find out more, so one member of our group offers to translate from their native Swahili into English. They tell me the inner sole is made from the tyre’s sidewall, the sole is made from the tread rubber, and the plies are used for straps. A finished pair costs 3,000 shillings, which is equivalent to £1.20. I find it amazing to see how resourceful they are.
Thursday 6 December
The humidity is punishing today, so to keep the team’s momentum going we do some classroom work before our chai break, and then continue outside. I’ve realised that walking around helps to keep everyone’s energy levels high as the heat in the room can be out of this world, and the air-conditioning struggles to keep up.
Friday 7 December
My last day of training in Tanzania has arrived so we have a recap of the topics we’ve covered during the week followed by a question and answer session. I held another quiz for the class and they are all very eager to pass. Tyres are such an important part of the overall safety of a vehicle and it’s very positive to see the local people passionate to make a change in their country.
Reflecting at the end of my day, I’m so grateful to Michelin that I have been able to come to Dar es Salaam to share my knowledge and meet some incredible people. Safety and community are two of the values which Michelin holds most dear, and our work with Transaid is a clear reflection of these. It’s great to be part of a company which sticks by its beliefs and actively supports the work of such an important charity.
It has been a challenging fortnight, but hopefully Michelin has been able to help Transaid make a real difference. I hope that in the future vehicle maintenance conditions and road safety standards will improve in Tanzania.