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SA’s handling of road attacks takes toll on trucking industry

Five trucks were set alight in Mpumalanga on Sunday evening, near the Waterval Boven Tunnel on the N4. Photo: SAPS

Five trucks were set alight in Mpumalanga on Sunday evening, near the Waterval Boven Tunnel on the N4. Photo: SAPS

Published Jul 11, 2023


Various players in the trucking sector said yesterday they were disheartened at governments lacklustre handling on the attacks on trucks on major arteries, which comes at a cost to jobs and the economy.

On Sunday several trucks were torched on Van Reenen’s Pass, in KwaZulu-Natal, which caused the closure of the N3 toll route. The industry said the cost of the damaged trucks and trailers alone in the latest attacks could amount to more than R100 million while the cost of the cargo destroyed was far more exponential.

Abdul Kamdar, from KDG Logistics, said: “The cost of the superlinks can range anywhere between R3m to R5m, but the cost of the client’s cargo could well be more than R12m.

“To transport cars from Durban to Gauteng is about R3 000 per car and our margins there are very little, now if the cargo is burnt, we operators have to pay for everything and that drives people out of business, especially small to medium operators.“

The Road freight Association’s CEO, Gavin Kelly, said 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 would result in backlogs and 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, he said.

A 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 roughly R35m, Kelly said.

“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,” Kelly said.

Some trucking members said that truckers’ grievances on the employment of foreign truck drivers had not been addressed two years on, but that there was no certainty that the drivers of the trucks burnt over the weekend were driven by foreigners.

Other industry players said the attacks could also not be exclusively be attributed to the employment wars, but that elements of infighting over cargo could not be ruled out.

All trucking associations, including the All Truck Drivers Forum (ATDF) and the South African Truckers Association (Sata) disassociated themselves from the latest attacks, saying the law should take its course.

“We have nothing to do with this. Everytime it happens we are seen as being responsible for it because we are vocal about the welfare of trucks drivers and want a lot of matters addressed but we really condemn what has happened,“ said ATDF’s Sifiso Nyathi.

Sata’s Mary Padi said it was unfortunate that though there was a task team appointed at the first flare of the torchings in Mooi River in 2021, there had been nothing of the 11-point plan presented as a means to address the industry issues.

Some of the measures of the inter Ministerial Task Team’s 11-point plan are: facilitating the appointment of the task team; enforcement of the visa requirements; the need for consideration of all foreign driving licences; and registration and compliance with labour laws; among other measures.

Briefly mentioning the truck torchings yesterday was South African Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga.