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Freight industry raises concern over N3 traffic delays due to roadworks

One company said the congestion on the N3 in the vicinity of Pietermaritzburg was having a massive impact on trucking companies.

The N3 highway. File Picture: Doctor Ngcobo African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 5, 2022


Durban - The freight industry has raised concerns about the ongoing congestion and delays caused by the roadworks taking place on the N3, particularly just outside Pietermaritzburg.

The issue came to the fore recently due to the truck crashes in the vicinity of Townhill. While the issue of roadworthiness of vehicles was raised as a concern, the freight industry said the roadworks were another contributing factor to the incidents, especially where trucks had been forced to drive in a single lane.

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The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) announced the upgrades to the N3 and N2 highways in 2020. It said at the time that the N3 upgrade would focus on the 80km section from Durban to Pietermaritzburg and aimed to strengthen the logistics and transport corridor between South Africa’s main industrial hubs, improve access to Durban’s export and import facilities and raise efficiency along the corridor.

Gavin Kelly, CEO of the Road Freight Association, said delays along the N3 route were a serious concern.

He said the lengthy delays due to both the roadworks and the crashes were having a serious impact on the supply chain network.

“The recent incident resulting in over 18 hours of delay raises the vulnerability of our busiest route (a key link in our supply chain) which links not only South African markets, but foreign ones as well. We need to resolve this fast – otherwise the continual movement of freight away from the North-South corridor (of which the N3 is a vital leg) will continue and be lost either to other ports around Africa or to other support businesses and industries on other routes within South Africa.”

Jitesh Neerpath, operations manager at Jetrans, a transport and logistics service provider, said the congestion on the N3 was having a massive impact on trucking companies.

“There is a single lane for trucks on the N3 near Townhill. This causes a massive delay as there are queuing trucks and they are actually coming to a standstill for hours because of the traffic.”

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He said the extensive delays were leading to some trucks trying to use other lanes.

“The amount of time that trucks have to wait is what is causing some trucks to use the other lane for motor vehicles as they are trying to drive faster to overtake. That is what is causing the accidents on the N3.”

Neerpath added that a trucking business was a very time-sensitive operation and any delays in deliveries led to financial losses.

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He said if, for example, a delivery which was scheduled for 11am only arrived at 2pm and then had to be offloaded, it meant that further loads may not be done due to insufficient time.

“There is not enough time to get back and make a second delivery. So we find ourselves doing one delivery when there should have been two. If we lose deliveries for a day, it has a massive impact on our business.”

Approached for comment on the roadworks in that area, Thabiso Dladla, Sanral’s Eastern Region project manager, said the roadworks were expected to be completed in the last quarter of 2022.

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“The single lane for trucks will remain for the duration of the works to keep the road safer for construction workers as well as other motorists.”

Professor Bonke Dumisa, an independent economic analyst, said the traffic delays on the N3 would have an impact on businesses.

“Not only are trucking companies losing revenue due to loss of time and failure to meet contracted times for delivery, but the whole supply chain is interrupted and this is costing the economy millions.

“If you have to travel on the N3, it is shocking to see the amount of delays and roadworks. We can only imagine how trucks are coping as they have to deal with this situation every day.”

Dumisa added that while it was a difficult situation, as the highway did need to be upgraded, Sanral should look at how the upgrade could be expedited to avoid the negative impact on the economy.

“It’s very difficult for trucks, how do they plan their trips when there are so many delays? They sometimes have to use alternative routes and that causes more delays and more money being lost. It’s a difficult situation which can only be resolved with our roads being repaired so there can be smooth movement for trucks and no disruptions to the supply chain.”