Brazilian Truckers And The BR-116 (The Highway Of Death)

The BR-116 (The Highway Of Death) map





Brazil in South America is quite a huge country. According to ANTT which is the Brazilian Ground Transportation Agency, the country’s trucking industry is made up of more than 46,000 companies, 95% of these companies being small and medium-sized companies. The industry also boasts of close to 310,000 transporters who are self-employed and who render their services to transport companies and other private companies. The industry owns an estimated 1.85 million trucks that transport 80% of the country’s GDP. This accounts for more than 60% of the total freight. Trucking constitutes the country’s primary mode of moving freight. Truckers in Brazil are generally employed by independent operators who do not have the capacity to provide centralized services for moving large volumes of freight. As a matter of fact, the ANTT has it that 56.6% of the entire fleet is owned by self-employed truckers who are also responsible for the bulk of freight transport in the country.






The BR-116 Highway

The country’s highway network is quite vast. However, BR-116 happens to have the highest concentration of Truckers. With a total length of 2,700 miles, it is the second longest highway and connects Fortaleza in Ceará State with Jaguarão near the Uruguay border, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. It runs from the north of Brazil to the south and is roughly parallel to the coastline. All highways in Brazil that are named BR-100 to BR-199 tend to have a south-north orientation and the BR-116 is no exception. Truckers have a hard time negotiating this road due to its high cliff sides on some sections and rough weather. The São Paulo-Curitiba section (Rodovia Régis Bittencourt) is especially notorious and has been named Rodovia DA Morte or the highway of death and rightly so. Truckers leaving São Paulo for Curitiba exit through the Vale Da Ribeira before proceeding into the Serra do Mar and ultimately, the Paraná plateau that lies beyond.








The Most Dangerous Section of the BR-116

This section of the highway has witnessed numerous accidents involving trucks and other types of vehicles. It constitutes the largest number of highway deaths in the state of São Paulo. This section of the highway is nearly always featured in websites that categorize the world’s most dangerous highways in the world. Sections of the BR-116 have other official names as illustrated above. The section connecting São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro is referred to by the Portuguese speaking natives as the “Rodovia Presidente Dutra”, which in English roughly means death highway. Apart from being the busiest section of the highway, it is the lifeline of more than 200,000 people. Truckers transport freight to ten different states in Brazil that are connected by this section. It also links up some major Brazilian cities such as Pelotas, Porto Alegre, Sao Paulo, Sao Jose dos Campos, Vitoria da Conquista, Feira de Santana, Muriaé Governador Valadares, Teófilo Ottoni, Caxias do Sul, Curitiba, Volta Redonda, Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza.




BR-116 Vices And Distractions

It would be hard to talk about trucking on the BR-116 without touching on the thriving sex trade along the 2,700mile-long highway. The highway is dotted by villages and towns along its span. The breadth of the BR-116 is largely composed of poverty-stricken areas where girls as young as 9 years engage in prostitution. They specifically target the truckers who comprise more than 60% of the vehicular traffic. According to UNICEF, the BR-116 is the most active highway in the world in terms of sexual exploitation of minors. Brazil is only second to Thailand in terms of children engaging in prostitution and a good number of them can be found on the BR-116 where they wait for truckers to pick them up.






Driving on the BR-116 demands that a trucker be attentive, alert and constantly concentrates on the road ahead. According to medical experts, there is so significant association between loss of concentration, tiredness, fatigue and automobile accidents. Truckers on the BR-116 suffer from exhausting work schedules which can lead to high blood pressures and cardiovascular alterations. Long haul truckers in Brazil also suffer from lack of career adaptation and stress. These factors are associated with mental disorders. The use of alcohol and medication to enhance alertness by truckers on the BR-116 is consistent with common strategies of coping with professional and personal situations. The strategies tend to focus on the problem itself as well as the associated emotions and eventually mitigate or accelerate career adaptation. The high number of accidents on the São Paulo-Curitiba section of the BR-116 can therefore be associated with the general state of the driver which eventually determines how they handle the truck in this dangerous section.







All said, it is imperative that a trucker maintains healthy lifestyles and habits. ANTT is currently creating awareness among truckers on this route and indeed all over the country so that they can avoid the use of sleep inhibitors and alcohol. This will reduce the interruption of their physiological functions and hence reduce truck related accidents on the BR-116 and specifically on the Rodovia da Morte stretch.








BR-116 Contribution to Brazil’s Economy

In Brazil, the trucking industry accrues flight revenues from tariffs, which are basically determined by the merchandise volume and the distance transported. Just like in all other world economies, the impact of transport on commodity prices cannot be ignored. Factory-made products owe 0.8 to 2.0% of their final price to these tariffs while 15 to 20% of agricultural commodity prices can be traced to these tariffs. The tariffs that govern the trucking industry are linked to fuel prices. Price increases on oil products have a heavy bearing on Brazil’s trucking services largely the industry is powered by diesel. Brazilian trucking industry consumes a lot more diesel fuel/ton-km than the shipping and rail sectors. Truckers in Brazil intimate that the main costs associated with their business are freight insurance, spare parts, fuel (largely diesel), truck maintenance and cost as well as highway tolls and taxes. Lack of proper highway conservation and maintenance has a direct effect on the truckers through numerous accidents and higher fuel consumption.





Brazil’s Trucking Model

Brazil’s trucking industry model is based on the free-market principle. This means that a trucker can operate in Brazil without a specific licensing requirement. The only regulations that affect Brazilian truckers are rules that govern the transportation of hazardous cargo or freight. The industry has no specific legislation, no concessions, authorizations or special permits. Tariffs are also established without any restrictions whatsoever. This explains why Truckers and trucking companies in Brazil are classified under micro, small and medium enterprises due to their informal mode of conducting business.




Further Reading Truckers All Over The  World

The Sichuan-Tibet Highway: Worlds Most Dangerous Highway Truckers
Lorry Trucker UK
Austrailian Truckers



This Article is dedicated to my Grandson who was born yesterday Monday June 18th 2012.  Aiden Kovak was born in Three Rivers, Michigan to parents Tyler and Nick Kovak. He weighed 7 lbs 7 oz.



Aiden Kovak

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