The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the local intelligent transport system (ITS) community, says Intelligent Transport Society South Africa (ITSSA) CEO Dr Paul Vorster.
ITTSA conducted a survey among its members on the new normal brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Just over 38% of respondents report a moderate impact on their business operations, while 61.9% report severe (42.9%) or very severe (19%) impact on their operations, says Vorster.
Just over 90% are somewhat concerned (47.6%) or very concerned (42.9%) about the future and a return to a degree of normality, while a small group (9.6%) is only moderately concerned.
Nobody is unconcerned, says Vorster.
Two-thirds (66.7%) say they have lost business, while 33.3% say they are not being affected by the pandemic and measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
An astounding 90.5% report that projects/work have been put on hold, says Vorster.
This may in part be ascribed to travel restrictions for everything other than what is classified as essential work, preventing project deployment and on-site installation and testing.
This, however, seems to also indicate that a degree of office-bound work (planning, design, research, and so forth), has been put on hold, believes Vorster.
Two-thirds (66.7%) report that contract awards have been deferred.
This, inevitably, will cause, at best, a lag in cash flow, notes Vorster.
“This may in part be explained by the lockdown that stopped bid evaluation and bid adjudication meetings from being held, leading to contract awards being deferred.”
A big concern is that a large majority of respondents (61.9%) say that their company has been forced to cut salaries and wages, adds Vorster.
“While the biggest majority (81%) has not – yet? – retrenched staff, 19% of the respondents reported that jobs have already been lost.”
In addition to the 19% of respondents who says their company has already retrenched staff, 52.4% anticipate further retrenchments in the near future.
While one in five (19%) is somewhat confident that a degree of normality will return in the foreseeable future, two-thirds (66.6%) are concerned (57.1%), or very concerned (9.5%), that this will not be the case.
The enforced lockdown has shifted many people to remote work from home, notes Vorster.
A large majority of respondents (71.4%) believes that almost everybody that can work from home will continue to do so, while 28.6% say only a small percentage will continue to work from home.
Vorster notes that Covid-19 has the potential to change the transport environment beyond anything imagined before.
“Work-from-home is already a new reality for many, and tele-transport will remain part of the new normal for many of those.
“It is not inconceivable that traffic congestion will be reduced, but also that the mantra of physical distancing will negatively affect public transport ridership and, hence, its sustainability.”
Internationally, market studies estimate that the global intelligent transportation system market reached $38.6-billion in 2020, up from $8.5-billion in 2014.
ITS provides transport solutions by using information and telecommunications technologies to contribute to improved road safety, efficiency and comfort, as well as environmental conservation through relieving traffic congestion.
“Locally, we saw a number of substantial new ITS tenders being issued recently, even though some of them are still stuck in the supply chain management process,” notes Vorster.