The Hell Run

January 26, 2019  •  2 Comments

“The Hell Run” keeps fuel for Zambia flowing
A report made in February 1967

The main route for fuel & oil supplies was a 1,500 mile (2,400km) highway from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia and is known to truck drivers as the Hell Run because of its many hazards.

The fuel lift was the result of sanctions against Rhodesia which until Ian Smith and his Cabinet declared Independence, Zambia obtained its fuel from a refinery near Umtali.

The Zambian Government offered substantial payments to truck owners who were prepared to risk “The Hell Run”

The road, which passes through the Tanzanian Highlands and drops to the Masai Plain, is both lashed by rainstorms and then scorched by the Sun and since the fuel run began more than a year ago, more than sixty men have died on it.

Often the rain or dust on the road was so bad that headlights have to be used during the day and passing another vehicle is usually  impossible. Trucks get stuck in the mud, slide off into ravines or crash and roll-over because of driver exhaustion. The biggest danger of all was the cargo where the smallest spark or even the heat of the Sun could cause an explosion.  Many burnt out wrecks could be seen by the side of the road.

Vehicles which survived the trip returned to the Port of Dar es Salaam carrying copper wire bars and this became an important route for Zambia’s vital copper exports.

Click here for some interesting British Pathé films of the Hell Run.


Comments

Patricia Kuiper(non-registered)
My husband and I narrowly missed a collision with one of those Hell Run trucks on the way to Lusaka in a heavy rainstorm. Those fuel bladders used to leak oil and the roads always had oil on them and in the rain they were deadly.
Louis Fuchs(non-registered)
Good grief! I remember going on the Hell Run with Jean Menayas. It was one of the first stories I wrote for the Northern News/Times of Zambia when I started work. We left from Ndola, through Kapiri Mposhi and up to the border with Tanzania with copper and swapped cargoes with his older brother, coming back with drums of petrol. Very, very scary but we were both still in our late teens so it was just a cool adventure.
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