The Road Freight Association (RFA) has lashed out at suggestions by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula that the country’s road freight transport regulations are inadequate and require revision.
RFA CEO Gavin Kelly on Tuesday called Mbalula’s comments “both baffling and alarming”.
Kelly said the reality is that South Africa has one of the best transport legislative frameworks in the world.
“It is a combination of the best practices across the world. However, it is the implementation, the application, the monitoring, and the role played by the authorities that has created the impression that there is insufficient regulation of the industry,” he said.
Kelly said those who call for “more regulation” have been shown to be non-compliant with the most basic of regulatory requirements, such as registration with the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry, payment of minimum wages, adherence to transport regulations and even basic Labour Relations Act requirements.
“It is a harsh reality that the failure of the very same Department of Transport to ensure the efficient running of Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) has led to the position that now exists where almost all freight moves by road.
“Targeting the road freight transport sector to address the shortcomings of rail transport will increase operating costs, which will be borne by the consumer, and will result in an artificially induced ‘correction’ that will cause negative effects in the road freight logistics sector,” he said.
Plans for regulatory agency ‘a calculated move’
Kelly said the RFA is calling on the minister to carefully consider the input by the association related to the introduction of an “agency to regulate road freight transport”.
He said the introduction of such an “agency” to apply the proposed actions to correct the deficiencies will effectively introduce another tax but, more importantly, is a calculated move by an outside body to “capture” the sector for self-gain.
The proposed “agency” will also increase the size of the government service at a time when government needs to cut spending, he said.
Kelly was reacting to an address by Mbalula at the RFA annual conference at the weekend.
Road ‘not adequately regulated’, says minister
Mbalula said in South Africa, contrary to international best practice, road is the only mode of transport that is not adequately regulated and there is no effective regulation of road transport operators as business entities.
He said there is currently also no system for monitoring the performance of commercial road freight operations in South Africa.
The regulation of commercial transport as a separate activity from road traffic management is necessary because transport activities take place in the public space, using state-owned infrastructure, he said.
“Transport operators must therefore be held accountable for the externalities,” said Mbalula. “These being noise, accidents, pollution and damage to infrastructure.”
He said road freight transport has recorded a 48% growth in the last decade, with heavy goods vehicles making up 34% of traffic on the N3. He highlighted that heavy goods vehicle accidents on that route are now on par with light vehicles.
“We are concerned that the levels of enforcement are not keeping pace with the growth of traffic, thereby aggravating the cost to the economy estimated to be in excess of R300 billion per annum,” he said.
Mbalula said it is essential that road freight operators are held responsible for compliance with all standards defined for vehicles, drivers, loads, operations and elimination of externalities caused by their activities and this is the primary cause of the current challenges within the freight logistics supply chain.
“To control the externalities of road damage, pollution, speeding, accidents and other negative actions by operators, we have identified the need for the revision of existing regulatory measures and enhancement of the planning, coordination and strategic framework of the road freight sector.
“The department, through the Road Traffic Management [System], is in the process of developing the National Operator Registration System … the purpose of which is to re-regulate the road freight sector as the only deregulated freight transport mode to date,” he said.
Mbalula said there are currently major problems with several aspects of enforcement of operator standards, and all too often it is the driver who receives the summons, and the operators are not implicated due to the overall ineffectiveness of the operator registration system.
He stressed that if this situation is to be changed to achieve effective regulation of the road freight industry, it is necessary to introduce a more effective Road Transport Operator Registration.
Mbalula said road freight movement places a serious fiscal burden on government, particularly where heavy vehicle overloading is concerned.
“The heavy vehicle operators are not paying the corresponding cost of damaging the road network. Hence prices appear cheaper than is actually the case.
“Secondly, the impact of heavy vehicle accidents on both the fiscus and communities has not been accounted for in the costs of road freight transport.
“Lastly, the environmental impact of road-based freight transport through emissions and cargo spillages is often not incorporated,” he said.
Mbalula said a major factor determining the need for restructuring of the freight transport sector is the urgent requirement for extensive recapitalisation and investment in transportation infrastructure and equipment to reduce the unsatisfied demand that has given rise to intermodal distortions of the transport of bulk commodities.
It is an unfortunate fact that historically, the railways have suffered from undercapitalisation and need to focus on the long-haul movement of bulk commodities that are the main export trades of the country, he said.