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Inevitably, the South African National Taxi drivers' organisation has asked my friend Togetherness Tshabalala, the demon taxi driver of Diepsloot, to road-test these new, safer, 18 seater and 35 seater maxi-taxis. The transport Minister wants these vehicles to replace the notoriously dangerous minibus taxis. Togetherness's report has caused a stir among the manufacturers.

Maxi Taxi Road Test by Togetherness 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 and building material. This is a significant improvement 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.
  • At one time the back assembly became incandescent because the handbrake had been left on. This ignited the petrol tank but most of the passengers managed to alight. (Alert readers will spot Togetherness's little pun.) We managed to repair the bus at the roadside with pieces of corrugated iron and a hammer and resumed our journey.
  • The bus, now reduced to a 26 seater, was in fact now much easier to handle, cornering at speed.

I also liked the 18-seater.

  • 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 60km/h would certainly be inviting parking tickets as well as hubcap thieves.
  • Talking of which, the wheels in both versions does not take BMW hubcaps - drivers are not going to like this.
  • The automatic hydraulic door is a big advantage over the minibusís sliding door. If the passengers' appendages are left sticking out, the sliding doors of the mini-bus 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 relatively 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 busses 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 among the traffic lanes without rolling the vehicle, which is a big time saver.
  • 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' CD.

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