Police are deploying additional personnel along the arterial motorway between the commercial capital Johannesburg and the port city of Durban following a string of attacks on heavy trucks spurred by local drivers opposed to foreigners being used to haul freight.
A 55-year-old driver died from injuries sustained when his truck was stopped and set alight on the N3 near Heidelberg, south of Johannesburg on Monday.
More than 30 trucks have been targeted and at least a dozen of them torched since the weekend.
The trucks are stopped by vehicles blocking the four-lane highway. They are then looted before being set alight.
Drivers say they fear for their lives.
The highway carries mostly local trucks.
However much of the copper and other heavy cargo coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi is also hauled along the N3.
Leader of the All Truck Drivers Forum of South Africa Mandla Mngomenzulu insists his members are not responsible.
He blames criminal elements taking advantage of the local truck drivers’ grievances.
Local driver says they have been betrayed by transport firms who employ foreigners and pay them less than unionised truckers.
The attacks have been made for at least a decade both along the N3 and on the N1 motorway between Johannesburg and Cape Town
Police have not been able control the situation.
Sometime the attacks happen as trucks wait to pass through tollgates along the motorways.
The Road Freight Association, which represents the employers, is calling for government intervention to stop what it calls a war on its trucks.
Technical operation manager of the RFA Gavin Kelly says: “Truck drivers fear for their lives. We have seen trucks being shot at as they drove past assailants waiting on the side of the road and they’re not being apprehended.
“The drivers are just having random shots fired at them. It’s not just foreign drivers being attacked, it’s also local drivers in the firing line.
“Obviously, people don’t want to send out their drivers if there is a chance that they are going to be injured or killed,.”