The Road Freight Association (RFA) cannot accept the scenes that played out on the N3 in the early hours of 09 July 2023 as anything else but a coordinated attack on the road freight sector. Both the specific spot on the N3, as well as the timing, were chosen to cause the best outcome in terms of mayhem and disruption.
The road freight sector (trucks) carries 80% of the goods that are moved in and around South Africa, as well as for those countries that trade with international markets and use South African ports for import and export.
Those who attack the road leg of logistics supply chains need to understand that the long-term effects will bring greater destruction to employment levels, and will result in further job losses, as businesses and supporting sectors shrink and trade moves away from South Africa.
However, with regard to freight and the economy of South Africa: Without trucks, South Africa stops. As noted earlier, the scene that played out on the N3 at Van Reenen’s Pass in the early hours of 09 July 2023 was a ruthless attack on the road freight supply chain – and the effects (economic, business confidence, security, law and order and corridor movement) are far reaching.
Whilst the immediate short-term losses will run into millions of Rands (including cost of vehicles, cargo, personal effects, road damage, EMS response, delays in movement and shipping penalties), the long-term impact will be felt in terms of increased security costs into the cost of logistics, higher insurance premiums, higher SARIA cover premiums, higher toll fees, less freight movement through South Africa, closure of freight companies, loss of jobs: the list continues.
- Depending on the category of vehicle, the type and value of cargo, the specialised equipment required for the cargo: this can be anywhere between R3 to R10-million. A simple calculation of capital losses (assets and cargoes) of the six trucks destroyed to date amounts to anything between R18 to R60 million;
- The cost of loss of income through businesses closing is far greater: If any of the trucks belonged to a small business – it will have lost its only truck, or trucks: This means loss of earnings / revenue for the business, loss of salaries paid to staff who would no longer have jobs (due to business shutdown), loss of revenue through the services and support the business uses (eg. fuel, storage, maintenance, tolls, staff requirements, licencing, etc);
- Potential closure of businesses means less transporters available to perform work. Some companies might feel the industry is not a safe / secure environment and so their owners could decide to simply close their business;
- Freight travelling through South African ports (especially the Port of Durban and along the corridor that has been targeted): cargo owners / customers will choose to move cargo through neighbouring countries. This has already been happening as South African ports become inefficient and the surrounding ports develop, improve and drive efficiencies up. South Africa’s “Gateway to Africa” status has been lost and these attacks will further cement the move of transit freight from South Africa to neighbouring countries. Port revenues will drop, as will income through all support and related freight logistics users;
- 7 000 container deliveries are done through the South African ports per day (Port of Durban does roughly 4 000 containers a day). Any delay along the N3 (- here the majority of containerised freight is destined to the Port – will result in backlogs / delays for imports and exports;
- Depending on the configurations of the vehicles, delays in moving (for trucks) costs the transporter between R5 000 and R7 500 a day (rough estimate of loss of revenue to the 7 000 odd vehicles from various destinations who would be affected for one day delay at various points of entry, and along the N3 corridor) would be around is R35 million – this is the broad road freight sector impact.
The cost to communities where jobs will be lost (those that provide various services to the trucks that travel the routes through South Africa and the rest of the Continent, are not factored in). That figure will increase as freight moves away from South African ports to neighbouring countries.
The N3 is probably the busiest corridor in South Africa, carrying far higher volumes of traffic (freight, passenger and light motor vehicles for commercial, tourism and private use) than any other corridor.
Once again, the cost to the South African economy, taking all the above into consideration, will run into Billions of Rand lost, as business confidence from foreign investors plummets, and those who use South Africa as a transit hub, turn away from us and move to other countries that are SAFER and more efficient.
However, the more important questions to be answered are: Who is behind this attack, and why. There was no looting of vehicles (therefore not cargo theft in intent), and thankfully none of the drivers or staff on the vehicles were injured or killed.
The targeted precision of the attack is worrying. This was well planned and efficiently implemented. At this point, no group has acknowledged that they are responsible.
If this is the same grouping that has been behind such attacks across the country over the past six years, then action needs to be taken against those who promote, plan and implement such criminal actions. We have heard the Minister of Police refer to economic sabotage and many other forms of description, but it would seem that this behaviour continues unabated.
If this is, indeed, the work of the All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF-SA) and its counterparts relating to the employment of illegal foreigners in the road freight (or any other) sector, then the responsible Department of Employment and Labour, and its inspection structures, must ensure that their responsibility to protect employees and employers from non-compliant labour practices is strictly and swiftly applied.
Whilst the Road Freight Association (RFA) is currently unaware of which companies were targeted and attacked (and whether this was a random choice of trucks or an actual specific set of transporters), it is always those who are compliant and innocent of the complaints or issues raised by others, that get caught up in these activities, and ultimately pay the price of closed businesses and severe cost increases to operations.
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RTMS auditors in bid to raise safety awareness amongst truck drivers in South Africa
South Africa faces a pressing road safety challenge, with a disproportionate number of accidents involving heavy vehicles, particularly trucks. In an effort to address this issue and promote safer road conditions, it is imperative to raise safety awareness among truck drivers across the country.
To promote safe driving amongst heavy vehicle truck drivers, certifications solutions company JC Auditors (JCA) will participate in a series of road shows in collaboration with industry partners, dedicated to raising awareness among heavy vehicle truck drivers and promoting safe driving behaviours.
The first event will be hosted at the Highway Junction Truck Stop on 4 October 2023, targeting an audience of 2 000 drivers.
During this event, drivers will not only be treated to delightful surprises and giveaways, but will also receive a crucial safety message emphasising the importance of responsible driving. The Highway Junction team are spearheading this event, with the JCA team providing driver safety resources and support.
For the second year, JCA will partner with the Reinhardt Transport Group (RTG) for their “Safer Roads” road shows, which will take place in various locations, including Komatipoort, Steelpoort, Rustenburg, Brits and Richards Bay.
This collaboration will enable the dissemination of vital road safety information to a broader audience of truck drivers across these high-volume routes.
In addition to these road shows, JCA will host its third Annual Driver Day at Highway Junction, which will encompass driver health checks and the highly successful one-on-one driver motivational talks.
This event further recognises the challenges faced by truck drivers and aims to express appreciation for their demanding profession. Each driver will receive a token of gratitude as a gesture of recognition for their commitment to one of the most challenging jobs around.
“The JCA team strongly encourages all stakeholders in the road safety ecosystem to consider and implement initiatives that elevate the professional status of drivers,” says Managing Director Oliver Naidoo. “By collectively addressing the issues faced by truck drivers and promoting safer driving practices, we can work towards improving South Africa’s lamentable road safety record.”
JCA is committed to fostering a culture of road safety and believes that these road shows, in collaboration with industry partners, are a meaningful step towards making our roads safer for everyone.
“South Africa’s trucking industry plays a pivotal role in the nation’s economy, facilitating the transportation of goods that are essential for daily life,” continues Naidoo. “The significant increase in freight volumes proportionately increases the safety risk exposure, hence the need for greater awareness and adherence to safety protocols among truck drivers.”
In this regard, Naidoo highlights some key factors the road freight sector should consider:
High Accident Rates
South Africa has one of the highest road crash rates in the world, and a significant proportion of these accidents involve heavy vehicles. The consequences of these accidents are often devastating, resulting in loss of life, injury, and damage to property.
Road accidents involving trucks have a substantial economic impact, causing delays in supply chains, increased insurance costs, and damage to infrastructure. These costs ultimately affect businesses, consumers, and the overall economy.
Truck driving is a demanding profession, often requiring long hours on the road, exposure to adverse weather conditions, and significant physical and mental strain. Ensuring the well-being of truck drivers is not only a safety concern, but also a matter of basic human rights. The increasing truck crime statistics and social unrest incidents make the situation even worse.
To address these challenges, there is a growing need for comprehensive safety awareness programs targeting truck drivers. These initiatives should include:
Education & Training
Providing truck drivers with access to training programs that focus on safe driving practices, defensive driving techniques, and understanding road conditions. This should not be purely classroom based which has limited impact, but should use personal, innovative, and consistent means of engaging with the drivers to bring about the desired shift in safety culture.
Mental & Physical Health Support
Offering resources and services that address the mental and physical health of truck drivers, including stress management, nutrition, and regular health check-ups, especially for drivers with chronic illnesses.
Implementing advanced safety technologies such as collision avoidance systems, fatigue monitoring, and using telematics data to enhance driver safety.
Encouraging collaboration between government agencies, the trucking industry, and local communities, to create a collective commitment to road safety.
Recognition & Appreciation
Recognising and appreciating the contributions of truck drivers who undertake one of the toughest jobs in the country, often under challenging conditions.
Voestalpine VAE SA (VAESA) Awarded a Prestigious Three-Year Contract by Transnet Freight Rail for Turnout Sets
Leading provider of railway infrastructure solutions, VAESA, is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a significant three-year contract by Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) to manufacture and supply TFR’s demand for turnout sets and components annually.
This collaboration is a testament to VAESA’s commitment to delivering high-quality railway products and services that enhance South Africa’s rail network.
TFR’s decision to award VAESA with this game-changing contract from a rail network infrastructure perspective, underscores the company’s reputation for excellence and innovation within the railway industry.
“We are delighted to have been selected by TFR for this significant contract,” says Pulane Tshabalala Kingston, VAESA’s Chief Executive Officer.
“This partnership between ourselves and TFR aligns perfectly with our mission to provide cutting-edge railway solutions that contribute to South Africa’s transportation infrastructure progress. Our team is dedicated to delivering products of the highest quality that meet the stringent standards set by TFR.”
Local Production a Boost For The Economy
The turnout sets and components for this project will be manufactured at VAESA’s state-of-the-art Isando facility in Johannesburg.
The facility holds a unique history, as it was acquired 26 years ago by voestalpine Railway Systems, part of the voestalpine group, a distinguished Austrian-listed metal company renowned as the unrivalled leader in turnout technology globally. In 2021, Mirai Rail Corporation, a black woman-owned company, acquired a controlling interest in VAESA.
“As the only facility of its scale in sub-Saharan Africa, our Isando facility stands as a testament – not only to the company’s dedication to advancing railway infrastructure and technology on the Continent, but also to our commitment to local manufacture in South Africa,” says Tshabalala Kingston.
“In this regard, it is important to note that our facility has the capacity to comfortably meet both TFR’s demand in terms of the awarded contract, as well as our other customers’ demands. We have gone to great lengths to ensure the security of supply for our customers, as we understand how important this is.”
“It is noteworthy that this is the first substantial turnouts contract to have been successfully awarded in the last five years – and explains TFR’s significant maintenance backlog.
This award is an important and positive step forward by TFR, which will go a long way to resolving cycle time issues, creating jobs, bolstering the revenues of users on the rail network and ultimately contributing to our overall economic growth,” continues Tshabalala Kingston.
Turnouts are a critical component of modern railway infrastructure. They let trains change tracks smoothly, without needing to stop.
Turnouts allow trains to be re-routed to avoid congestion, delays, or maintenance work. Additionally, rail turnouts enable the creation of sidings, which are essential for freight trains to pass each other on single-track lines.
Empowering Communities & Driving Economic Growth
According to Tshabalala Kingston, the significance of the contract goes well beyond VAESA, casting a positive light on the entire perway industry.
“This award heralds a much-needed turnaround that will breathe new life into various facets of the industry – including job prospects and the livelihood of downstream suppliers, who provide essential components like nuts, bolts, chairs, and fishplates. The positive impact of this award extends across the industry, as it revitalises not only VAESA, but also the network of companies that support its operations.”
Already, VAESA has supplied TFR with 18 complete turnout sets. These were installed in July this year during the annual shutdown of the coal line that runs from Lephalale in Limpopo, through Mpumalanga, to the Port of Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal.
The turnouts were installed on the Ermelo, Vryheid, Ulundi and Richards Bay lines. As of January 2023, the coal line had a number of clamped turnouts, which hurt the ability of coal mining companies to evacuate their export coal.
Replacing 18 turnouts has been heralded as a game-changer, significantly improving cycle times and overall turnaround time in the TFR Ermelo yard – ultimately halving the overall cycle time.
“The awarding of this contract and the successful engagement and participation in the yearly coal line shutdown, through collaborative efforts with various stakeholders, serves as undeniable evidence of what is possible when all stakeholders come together with a common purpose, ” concludes Tshabalala Kingston.
“It benefits the manufacturing industry at large and users of the various rail corridors. Equally important, is that it will increase tariff revenues for Transnet – given the greater operational efficiencies achieved, allowing for more volumes to be transported between the coal mines and the Port of Richards Bay. This impact of the award cannot be underestimated – it has the capability of contributing to the re-awakening of the South African rail renaissance.”