Since the Railways payments crisis, brought above by Rhodesia's UDI, Zambia has tried many means of transport to get her vital copper exports out and her equally vital fuel imports in.
Since the Railways payments crisis, brought above by Rhodesia's UDI, Zambia has tried many means of transport to get her vital copper exports out and her equally vital fuel imports in. One such is known by the drivers of the lorries that take the copper to Isoka, near Zambia's border with Tanzania, and return with petrol or diesel oil as the Hell Run. The run is operated by small contractors in co-operation with the Zambian Government, organised through Central African Road Services, a quasi-Government body. Using 7-, 8-, and 10-ton trucks, mostly bought recently for the purpose, these small contractors operate a sort of "little Dunkirk" by collecting a load of copper at one of the Copperbelt's refineries and empty fuel drums from C.A.R.S. and making the journey up the Great North Road, which is in atrocious condition even for a dirt road, to Isoka, where they unload and load again with full fuel drums. The trip I went on, travelling in a Bedford 7-ton truck, took 43 hours for the round trip and most operators do this trip about 10 times a month. To date about 6,000 tons of copper have been taken this way to Isoka, little more than one full railway load. In fact, Zambia decided recently that the situation was so desperate that limited use would have to be made of Rhodesia Railways in Zambia's exports were to survive. Finance Minister Arthur Wina announced in his Budget speech last week that the Great North Road would be tarred as quickly as possible, but until that time this notorious route, which sees at least one crashed lorry a day (not to mention breakdowns), will be known as the HELL RUN....