Open letter to the new Minister of Transport

Open letter to the new Minister of Transport

The new Minister of Transport has a lot on her plate. GAVIN KELLY, CEO of the Road Freight Association, outlines the most pressing points of critical importance in this open letter.

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. With this in mind, the association wishes to bring the following critical points to your attention:

  1. The Road Freight Logistics Task Team (the ATDF-SA matter)

The All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF-SA) has left the table – it is important that they be brought back into the fold, 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; had many of these been put 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 currently 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 take place in the UK, Australia, US, Canada, and the European Union.
  • All operators must register 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), Basis Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), and so on. This may require an extension of the scope of the NBCRFLI, to include operators who transport their own goods.
  • All drivers must be centrally registered to allow for better risk management and ensure that periodic refresher and improved skills training occurs.
  1. Public transport systems (passenger services)

The country needs reliable, efficient, and affordable people transport systems. The mini-bus taxi industry is the 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, grant subsidies based on trips undertaken (not beforehand), and allow investment into inter-changing passenger modes (taxi/bus/train).

Allow the private sector to provide the service. Government should level the playing fields and ensure citizens get a fair deal. Drop bus subsidies – payment should be made per proven trip (in other words, subsidise through the grant system).

  1. Ports (harbours) and ports of entry (borders)

Ensure 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 and ensure efficient labour. We have to act now, or the freight will move to the ports of our neighbours, and we will lose all the revenue, jobs, and other businesses related to this mode of transport.

  1. Rail (infrastructure, operations)

Again – this MUST operate efficiently. Concession routes (lines) like toll roads for at least 30 years and allow the private sector to develop and maintain these routes. Open access is key. As in the case of a toll road, private train companies (operators) can utilise the concessioned rail system (a different entity).

Following this, ensure that there is intermodal connectivity. Real, efficient, seamless, and cost-effective intermodal connectivity is required – as soon as possible.

  1. Road management and administration

Privatise administrative functions. Driving licences should be on the ID card, as was planned many years ago. Renewal is not necessary, but you can utilise businesses (optometrists) to do eye tests every two years. Businesses can grow; we can create work. Only those people with moving violations should need to go for retesting (where necessary) or retraining. Businesses can be created there, too.

Vehicle licencing 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 on our roads – those who flout Chapter VI of the National Road Traffic Act (NRTA), refuse to register with Council, operate non-roadworthy vehicles, or implement sub-minimum employment procedures, continuing 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.

The association 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, whilst 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 the 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 the ports do not work.

Once again, congratulations on your appointment – we look forward to enjoying a fruitful working relationship with you.

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Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publication in southern Africa.
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