Dear Honourable Sindisiwe Chikunga,
Congratulations on your appointment as Minister of Transport. The portfolio certainly ensures robust debate between the stakeholders and role-players in the various modes – and the ensuing events in the road freight industry are no different.
The mission of the Road Freight Association (RFA) is to promote professionalism, excellence and safety in road transport.
The association wishes to bring the following critical points to your attention:
1. The Road Freight Logistics Task Team (the All Truck Drivers Foundation [ATDF-SA] matter)
It is important that the ATDF-SA is brought back to the table (they have left) and that the proposed operator registration and monitoring process in development by your department is brought into operation as soon as possible.
The proposed system encapsulates many of the proposals from the RFA and had many of these been in place some time ago, we may not have been faced with the current status quo on our roads, in terms of non-compliant operators. Briefly:
- All freight operators need to be centrally registered (no complete database exists between provinces).
- All operators need to belong to an independent professional association and meet their registration (accreditation) requirements before such operators can apply to the Department of Transport for an Operator Card. Similar processes are done in the UK, Australia, US, Canada and the EU.
- All operators must be registered with the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI) to ensure compliance with the NBCRFLI Main Agreement and by extension the Labour Relations Act (LRA), Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), etc. This may require an extension of the NBCRFLI scope, to include operators who transport their own goods.
- All drivers must be centrally registered to allow for better management of risk and to ensure that periodic refresher and improved skills training occurs.
2. Public transport systems (passenger services)
The country needs reliable, efficient and affordable people transport systems. The minibus taxi industry is a private sector role-player that can be harnessed to provide various road passenger services. Implement a subsidised ticket system through smart cards or the ID card, subsidise on trips undertaken (not beforehand), and allow investment into interchanging passenger modes (taxi/bus/train).
Allow the private sector to provide the service: the government should level the playing fields and ensure citizens get a fair deal. Drop bus subsidies – pay per proven trip (i.e. subsidise through the grant system).
3. Ports (harbours) and ports of entry (borders)
Ensure that these are as efficient as possible by concessioning operations/terminals/depots for 30 years. Look at the success of the N1, N3 and N4 toll roads. Develop infrastructure. Ensure efficient labour. We have to act now or the freight moves to ports around us, and we will lose all the revenue, jobs and all other businesses related to this mode of transport.
4. Rail (infrastructure, operations)
Again – this must operate efficiently. Concession routes (lines) like toll roads (for at least 30 years). Allow the private sector to develop and maintain these. Open access is key. As in the case of a toll road, private train companies (operators) can utilise the concessioned rail system (different entity).
Then ensure that there is intermodal connectivity. Real, efficient, seamless, and cost-effective intermodal connectivity – as soon as possible.
5. Road management and administration
Privatise functions that are administrative. Driver licences should be on the ID card, as was planned many years ago. Renewal is not necessary, but utilise businesses (optometrists) to do eye tests every two years. Businesses can grow. We can create work. Only those people with moving violations need to go for a re-test (where necessary) or re-training. Businesses can be created there too.
Vehicle licensing can be done online. Remove the queues from public administration or compliance services. More citizens will be compliant and government resources can be targeted at non-compliance.
Lawlessness on our roads needs to be dealt with.
We cannot continue to allow non-compliant transport operators (those who flout Chapter VI of the National Road Traffic Act (NRTA), refuse to register with the council, operate non-roadworthy vehicles, implement sub-minimum employment procedures and continue to operate in a negligent and reckless manner).
In conclusion, the RFA is ready to assist the department in bringing about the necessary fundamental change in the freight industry and sharing expertise in other aspects of transport.
It has both the expertise and the representation of operators and networks to drive a freight industry that will safely and efficiently move freight across the country, while ensuring legal compliance and fair access to the industry for both operators and their employees.
Finally, it is important to remember that, with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) coming into operation soon, we are going to lose a lot of cargo and vessels to the ports around us.
Our neighbours are all hungry for revenue related to imports and transit operations. They know how much money can be generated through efficient ports and they know what sort of jobs are lost when it doesn’t work.
Once again, congratulations on your appointment – we look forward to a fruitful working relationship with you.
Chief executive officer
Road Freight Association