Not Only Buses Travel the Streets of Havana With One Wheel Missing

In the image, a truck of the Communal Services company of Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 8 January 2021 — Trucks and buses that circulate with three tires on the rear axle, instead of four, are no longer an exception on the streets of Cuba. Given the lack of spare parts, exacerbated by the economic crisis of recent years, state services have chosen to keep their cargo or passenger vehicles in operation even when they do not meet the minimum safety conditions.

First it was a Yutong bus that transported workers from the AICA laboratories without one of its four rear wheels, and this Friday a photographer from 14ymedio ran into a truck belonging to the state company of Communal Services of Havana in the same conditions.

Parked very close to the Ayestarán road, the vehicle, which is dedicated to transporting debris — large volumes of garbage or remains from tree pruning — was missing one tire.

“The lack of one of the traction tires causes complete instability,” warns Antonio, a mechanic with more than ten years of experience in the Mercedes Benz company workshops in the capital. “It can cause losses in the steering of the vehicle and, if that tire is overloaded and bursts, the vehicle can tilt to one side and cause an accident.”

The design of these axles “is planned in this way to support a certain weight,” explains the specialist auto mechanic. It is a danger, he insists, that the vehicle is in this state because “when one of these tires is missing, the remaining one is overloaded, even causing the suspension of the vehicle to be affected as well.”

Antonio warns that “there are some vehicles that serve tourism — a prioritized sector in Cuba — with bald tires and repaired steering. Imagine that it could be left for other vehicles!”

Javier Valdés worked for a time in the workshops of the extinct Fénix limited company, linked to the Office of the City Historian, in Old Havana. After emigrating a few years ago, he acquired a small trucking company in South Florida.

“Applying my knowledge as a professional mechanic, a heavy vehicle that transports people or cargo should circulate with all the wheels with which it was manufactured,” says Valdés. In his experience, “the lack of one of these tires can cause the vehicle to lose alignment and therefore the suspension is out of adjustment, the wheels wear out, or a tire explodes.”

In the event that the vehicle runs without weight “missing one of the wheels of the rear pairs,” Antonio details that “everything will also depend on the physical quality of the remaining tire, but it is not at all recommended that they move on the road in these conditions.”

If it has the axels for it, it’s  better have two tires, Javier insists: “I do not recommend that any vehicle travel the roads if it is missing a tire, and even less the roads of Cuba which are full of potholes, which is also a factor that directly affects the tire resistance.”

Each vehicle is designed to fulfill its function as it should, and in this sense, the mechanics agree that “if the design of a truck foresees a maximum load weight of 50 tons, with one less tire, this capacity is greatly reduced.”

In Havana, the deterioration of the vehicle fleet was recently recognized by Leandro Méndez Peña, general director of Transportation in the capital, who recognized, for example, the existence of a severe deficit in public transportation by pointing out that only 49% of the total bus fleet is in operation. The situation is visible to all and, on any street in Havana, vehicles appear that are not fit to circulate.


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