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Impact of Attacks on Trucks on Van Reenen’s Pass (KZN): 08 July 2023



Gavin Kelly standing

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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Unitrans launches Centre of Excellence to enhance African supply chain solutions



Operating cost efficiencies and safety – both driver and vehicle – are primary considerations for any logistics or freight company and Unitrans, a forward-thinking company dedicated to providing value-added supply chain solutions across the continent, moves this to a new level with the launch of its newly upgraded Centre of Excellence (COE).

“The launch of our upgraded COE marks a significant milestone for Unitrans and the industry as a whole,” says Jacques Greeff, Executive of Solutions at Unitrans. “We are thrilled to unveil this state-of-the-art facility that will drive value creation and operational excellence for our clients across Africa.”

The modern supply chain is driven by ‘big data’ with information coming directly from trucks on the road, fleet management systems and other services. The COE collects, analyses this data and provides real-time solutions and information to all relevant departments, as well as to drivers on the road – for example, instant route changes to avoid traffic jams and the like.

By harnessing the power of technology through the COE, Unitrans is able to process large-scale data into actionable business intelligence.

“Our focus is on empowering our clients with real-time insights and predictive analytics that drive informed decision-making and enhance overall operational performance,” remarks Greeff. “Through our centralised platform and data-driven approach, we are unlocking new possibilities for supply chain optimisation and cost efficiency.”

Unitrans is committed to developing bespoke solutions to provide optimal results for its customers. The company’s commitment to excellence extends beyond technology and data analytics. Its team of industry experts brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table, ensuring clients receive best-in-class solutions tailored to their specific needs.

“We believe that the future of supply chain management lies in the integration of data-driven insights and advanced technology,” continues Greeff. “Our COE is designed to be a game-changer, offering our clients a competitive edge in a rapidly evolving marketplace.”

Greeff describes the COE as an enabling tool that serves to optimise operations, mitigate risks and enhance safety and security measures – ultimately contributing to the increased efficiencies of our customers’ supply chains. Some of the tangible benefits of the COE include fleet optimisation, reduced standing times and an overall boost in vehicle efficiency.

Whilst none of these concepts are new, the Unitrans COE uniquely balances risk mitigation imperatives and efficiency targets with sustainability objectives.

Predictive analytics

Predictive analytics means leveraging historical and real-time data to forecast future outcomes. By analysing large-scale data sets, businesses can gain valuable insights into patterns, trends and potential risks, allowing them to make informed decisions and mitigate operational challenges effectively.

In the context of a logistics business, predictive analytics can revolutionise risk management practices by identifying potential issues before they escalate, reducing operational risks and improving operational cost efficiency significantly.

Through the continuous analysis of data related to factors such as weather conditions, traffic patterns, equipment maintenance and driver behaviour, transport and logistics companies can proactively address potential problems and optimise their operations for efficiency, safety and sustainability.

“Ultimately, with the integration of advanced predictive analytics tools and large-scale data analysis, it is conceivable the supply chain industry could not only reduce operational risks, but potentially eradicate them altogether,” says Greeff.

This transformative approach has the power to improve the way supply chain businesses operate, ensuring smoother operations, enhanced safety standards, and ultimately, a more sustainable and reliable supply chain ecosystem.

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JC Auditors prompts Easter Road Safety Campaign



South Africa has historically faced alarming road safety challenges during the Easter holiday period. According to past statistics, road accidents and fatalities tend to spike significantly during this time, highlighting the need for heightened awareness and proactive safety measures. According to Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga, 225 people died on the roads over the four-day Easter 2023 long weekend in 185 fatal crashes.

This is an almost 40% increase on the number of deaths in 2022. According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), the number of fatal crashes increased by 33% between Easter 2022 and 2023, with North West and Northern Cape recording decreases of 57% and 25% respectively in fatal crashes. The highest percentage increase was in the Free State at 125%, followed by Kwa-Zulu Natal at 67%.

As a prompt to the road transport industry, JC Auditors (JCA) are encouraging the road transport sector to consider initiating Easter road safety campaigns in the context of their business operations. The industry is being encouraged to consider simple, innovative ways to keep safe driving at the forefront during this high-risk period. With the holiday season approaching, it is crucial to avoid becoming immune to the messages of road safety campaigns and instead focus on engaging and impactful methods to remind drivers of the importance of safe driving.

“These campaigns need not be formal and big events – although the bigger corporates may opt for this – but a simple safety talk, a few impactful posters, a voice-note to the drivers, a quick reminder by the fleet controller. This can make a difference to at least one life,” says Yashen Naidoo, JC Auditors’ RTMS Lead Auditor.

More than 80% of road accidents are due to driver behavioural issues. Therefore, changing the mindset, attitude, and focus of drivers is crucial in reducing road accidents and fatalities. “From the RTMS audits conducted, we have found that distracted driving, travelling at unsafe speeds, and not maintaining a safe following distance are key contributors to road accidents,” comments Naidoo. “Drivers need to adjust their driving behaviour to suit prevalent road conditions, including high traffic density, road construction sites, wet roads, poor visibility, and damaged roads.”

Certain routes, such as the section of the N3 between Pietermaritzburg and Hammarsdale, pose an extremely high risk to drivers due to narrow lanes with temporary barriers. A minor lane deviation, a moment of distraction, or travelling at an unsafe speed can have catastrophic results. Commercial fleet operators need to raise awareness among their drivers about such high-risk routes and the need for extra caution.

The N3 Toll Route has seen a significant increase in the number of trucks over the past decade, mainly due to the transfer of freight from rail to road. On average, 7 000 trucks move thousands of tons of goods on the N3 every day. Given the high risks, commercial fleet operators need to seriously consider innovative means of raising awareness in our collective efforts to reduce road crashes and fatalities.

As part of the collective effort to stimulate practical road safety initiatives, JC Auditors (JCA) has made a free “Easter Safety Basket” poster available to prompt commercial fleets to start taking steps to promote safe driving. The poster which can be shared with drivers may be downloaded from JC Auditors. “By working together and taking little steps, we must believe that, despite our poor road safety record, we can make a difference!” concludes Naidoo.

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Press Releases

Road Freight Association revs up for annual conference at Arabella Hotel, Golf & Spa



Political Analyst Ongama Mthimka

The Road Freight Association (RFA) is gearing up for its annual conference, which this year takes place in the picturesque town of Hermanus in the Western Cape. The three-day event, held from May 24 to 26 at the Arabella Hotel & Spa, will bring together key stakeholders, thought leaders, and professionals from the road freight industry for networking, innovative ideas, learning, and relationship-building.

RFA CEO Gavin Kelly.

Promising to be a melting pot of knowledge and collaboration, attendees can look forward to a dynamic conference agenda featuring engaging panel discussions and insightful presentations. “The conference is a highlight on our calendar,” says RFA CEO Gavin Kelly. “It offers a pivotal platform for industry to come together to share and create dialogue that propels our sector forward.”

With television presenter Jeremy Maggs anchoring the event as MC, the keynote address at the conference is traditionally delivered by the Minister of Transport – and this year the address will centre around the conference theme, “Changing the Rhythm of Trucking.” Joining the Minister is a line-up of distinguished speakers including political analyst Ongama Mtimka, logistics expert Professor Jan Havenga, and Athena Executive Director, Devon Palanee.  Additionally, RFA CEO Gavin Kelly and RFA chairman Penwell Lunga will give insights into the RFA’s vision for the year.

Adding an extra spark to the proceedings, attendees can look forward to the enlightening presence of self-proclaimed political activist Evita Bezuidenhout as she shares her unique perspectives on South Africa’s political and social realities.

In addition to the conference programme, delegates can explore an exhibition and truck display, providing interactive engagement with cutting-edge technologies, industry advancements, and innovative solutions. Golf enthusiasts are invited to bring their clubs for a round at Arabella’s esteemed golf course.

“We look forward to welcoming industry at the conference as we celebrate the backbone of our nation’s economy – the road freight sector. Without Trucks, South Africa stops. Let us convene, robustly discuss issues affecting the industry, share insights, and propel our industry forward together,” says Kelly.

Registration for the conference is now open on the RFA website. Take advantage of the opportunity. Look out for the early bird offer.

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