The following is extracted from a report prepared by an International Rescue Corps member for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) in Geneva:
19th August 1993
IRC were asked to provide a small team to go to Liberia to teach local drivers to handle Mercedes trucks.
Sunday 21 August
Arrived in Monrovia and were met by UNHCR staff.
The team and locally provided drivers set out for Vahun after 3 days preparation in a convoy of loaded 8-ton trucks. After 3 hours driving the roads were getting bad and they soon encountered problem roads, and had to set about repairing bridges.
Following a night’s break, the convoy reached Vahun at about 8pm, after a hard day.
As it was in middle of the rainy season snow chains had to be used most of the time – very hard on the tyres but kept them on the move. Mud, rain and bad bridges were every-day problems. It got so bad that some trucks had to be kept on standby to pull others up the hills. The biggest problem, however, was the rain washing away roads and bridges.
The local drivers all worked hard – if any problems arose they did not hesitate to ask the IRC members for help, and they turned out to be a good bunch of drivers.
There were no serious mechanical problems at first, the biggest problem being to get oil filters – the trucks did not arrive with any spare parts. This proved to be a major problem later on. On first arrival in Monrovia, our team had asked the Mercedes agent to get some oil filters and other spare parts – these still hadn’t arrived when our last team member left 2 months later.
A second task was to establish a workshop in Vahun.
It was got up and working but the biggest problem (again) was trying to get spares, not just for Mercedes trucks, but also Toyota Land Cruisers and Nissan Patrols.
The few parts that are available locally are expensive.
A shortage of experienced staff who have worked on haulage also means that it takes too long to turn trucks around in Monrovia and send back to Vahun.
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