The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will discuss the methods, models and metrics used to measure logistics performance to highlight the changes that could lead to the improved long-term strategic planning of South Africa’s macrolevel systems at the launch of the CSIR’s ninth State of Logistics survey for South Africa in June.
CSIR programme manager and scien- tific editor of the survey Nadia Viljoen states that the survey has always reported on the freight flow and logistics costs data from two prior calendar years, but that this year, however, the CSIR will publish logistics and freight-flow costs data from 2011 and the projections of 2012.
“The survey focuses on the various challenges facing the industry in South Africa and solutions. For example, an ongoing challenge in the freight and logistics industry is moving freight from road to rail.
“The division of cargo between road and rail entailed a split of 88.8% and 11.2% in 2010,” she says.
Viljoen states that long-haul cargo, such as coal and iron-ore, should exclusively be transported on rail instead of the road networks.
“An encouraging example of coal being transported by rail is the Sishen–Saldanha railway line, which is an 861 km heavy- haul railway line that connects iron-ore mines near Sishen, in the Northern Cape, with the Port at Saldanha Bay, in the Western Cape. It is used primarily to transport iron-ore and does not carry passenger traffic.
“Unfortunately, the coal from the northern provinces is transported by truck, as rail infrastructure is lacking. This damages main and arterial roads that were not designed for such heavy-freight movement,” she points out.
Viljoen explains that this decreases the life span of roads significantly and also disrupts the maintenance schedule.
“Moving freight from road to rail is a big strategic imperative and State-owned freight logistics group Transnet needs to look at many elements, such as cost and efficiency, when considering moving freight from road to rail,” she adds.
Further, Viljoen points out that reliability, lead times and using the most environment-friendly option should be considered.
“The transportation of cargo may take longer on rail, but could be better for environmental sustainability,” she says.
Viljoen notes that a key element that should be considered when moving freight from road to rail is intermodality – the ability to shift between road and rail and as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“More inland port terminals, such as City Deep, in Johannesburg, are needed. Systems need to be put in place to ensure that there are minimal delays when moving cargo from trains to trucks.
Viljoen states that government has elevated the importance of infrastructure development on the national agenda.
“Integrated national planning is essential to the success of government’s intention to boost growth through sustainable infrastructure development. Reports from the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Committee, for example, indicate that government is starting to formulate plans, which is encouraging. However, funding for these projects is not a simple task,” she says.
“The private sector is often regarded as a partner, but only in later stages of project development, when funding is needed. We are suggesting that the private sector be part of the decision-making process and conceptualisation of actual infrastructure plans from the outset.
“When planning road network developments and expansions, there should be more extensive consultation with freight hauliers to understand how it will impact on their business,” Viljoen continues.
Another challenge in logistics and transport is regionalisation and connecting with the rest of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
“South Africa is ahead of its neighbouring countries in infrastructure development; however, it needs to identify a better way to connect and collaborate more effectively with SADC member countries and over- come political stereotyping and prejudices towards these countries that have been exaggerated in the freight and logistics industry,” she says.
Viljoen points out that it is important for South Africa to be regionally connected to fellow SADC countries to remain connected with the rest of the world.
“South Africa’s growth prospects are not as positive as those of other countries in Africa in terms of projections and gross domestic product. South Africa has always been deemed as a gateway into Africa regarding infrastructure, but if the country continues to hold onto its isolated view, that won’t be the case for many more decades.”
Viljoen notes that poor succession planning and a lack of mentorship are exacerbating the loss of low- and high-end skills in the freight-managing sector.
“Technical skills and institutional memory and experience are needed in the high-end field of the transport and logistics industry. There have been many changes over the past few decades and the base of institutional knowledge has been eroded.
There is a huge shortage of scientists and engineerrs and the private sector is able to afford the best talent, leaving government agencies with a lack of capacity and experience to plan and implement projects timeously, resulting in a bottleneck,” she says.
A technological challenge facing the freight industry is the availability of current freight and logistics data.
“In publishing the State of Logistics survey, the researchers have to go to great lengths to collect and collate accurate data samples and even then some extra- polations and assumptions must still be made.
“Geographical-positioning-system logs can be used to determine the movement of trucks, which is a major advancement in road-freight research, but the logs still don’t show what they are carrying. Even data that government has at its disposal to facilitate informed decision-making is not really sufficient,” says Viljoen.
She explains that, as researchers, the CSIR’s frustration lies in the time-consuming and expensive efforts required to compile a database on the freight industry; however, this is a challenge across the board.