There are significant challenges in the road freight industry, says Road Freight Association (RFA) technical and operational manager Gavin Kelly.
These challenges include the implementation of the new tolling system on South Africa’s roads and the poor state of some roads in the country, partic- ularly roads in rural areas, on which most goods are trans- ported using trucks, as well as roads on which goods are transported from agricultural centres, such as farms.
Other issues placing strain on the industry include the high demands from Unions concerning salary increases and conditions of employment, with industry and the union currently under way with negotiations [at the time of going to print], as well as the current state of rail infrastructure, adds Kelly.
“The new tolling system will have a cost effect that will drive inflation, no matter how the South African Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) tries to negate this fact,” says Kelly. Initially, Sanral estimated that the toll road fees for trucks would be R3,50/km; however, since then, new estimated toll fee figures indicate a decrease to R1,92/km.
The RFA established a petition on its website, in May.
“We aim to create awareness and to inform Sanral of the responses of companies and individuals regarding the new tolling system,” explains Kelly.
Of State-owned Transnet Freight Rail, he says: “Rail infrastructure in South Africa cannot handle the current requirements, besides the increased capacity of rail freight, and there is an urgent need for rail to start contributing to the delivery of goods and keeping logistics costs low.”
Meanwhile, Kelly is optimistic about the industry and its recovery from the recession: “There has been an increase in volumes that trucks are carrying, compared with volumes in 2008 and 2009. “The growth the industry is experiencing is not exponential growth or similar to the growth experienced five or six years ago. “However, there is still a positive outlook and growth is being experienced in the industry.”
Kelly points to increased trade between African countries, which he believes may have contributed to countries in Africa not being as affected by the recession as international countries are and which has led to growth in the industry.
He adds that cheaper trade probably drives the increased trade as logistical costs over distances are reduced and there are no shipping costs (sea). Upgraded routes to the north, south and west of Africa will also exponentially increase trade.
“This may enable easier trade between African countries as opposed to trading with partners outside Africa. “International trade will still continue, but it looks like countries in Africa are going to try to support each other more,” concludes Kelly.