Summer's here, so where's the fire?

PMV editor rants about the increasing number of wild fires.

Greg Whitaker.
Greg Whitaker.

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Every year in the UAE there is a sure sign that summer has properly arrived. It isn’t the sudden and unbearable way that the mercury jumps ten degrees, nor is the garish yellow effigies of Modesh that pop up on the roadside in order to promote the summer sales.

No, the summer is marked by the increase in fires that ignite around the city I don’t have any data to suggest why this might be, nor to say that it does or doesn’t happen elsewhere in the gulf. Interestingly, the fires that have occurred over the past few days seem to have happened for very different reasons.

Firstly, part of the macaroni factory was razed, followed by a firetrap labour camp on the Abu Dhabi border. Following this a couple of millionaire’s yachts over in Abu Dhabi city – and finally there was a fire that levelled several trucks and closed the border in the Rub Al Khali.

Despite being what must have been a trying week for the emergency services, it appears that by some miracle nobody was killed or seriously hurt in any of these conflagrations. However, the fire at the border raises some other heath and safety concerns.

The border post was closed, leaving the remaining drivers stuck for the best of a day in 47 degree heat. As usual, the UAE Red Crescent was on hand to distribute aid, but it isn’t at all clear to me why a fire which didn’t affect the operation of the border post should delay the crossing at all?

Even more accurately, it brings attention to the plight of drivers stuck at this dreadful crossing point. Of course it is important to have security checks, but the amount of time they take on the Saudi side is ridiculous.

Part of the problem is that truck drivers are to an extent an ‘unseen’ minority – if you tried holding GCC nationals or Europeans up at a border point for 20 hours at a time, they would let you know about it. The other part seems to be a reliance on slow and ancient technology, fingerprinting for example. Have these people not heard of iris scanning?

From a fleet managers point of view, the problem goes beyond flaked-out drivers. When the wheels aren’t turning somebody is loosing money – and times that by the amount of trucks in the 25km tailback, and you will see why I believe that modernising border control through the GCC should be the burning priority this summer.

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