The Deputy President of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe, has commended the road freight industry on the initiatives it has taken to respond to the health needs of its employees and in particular, the manner in which the industry responded to the challenges posed by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Speaking at the annual convention of the Road Freight Association held recently in Phalaborwa, Mr Motlanthe encouraged other industry sectors to learn from what the trucking sector has done in this regard. “Indeed, working together it is possible to realise our vision of an AIDS-free world,’ he said.
As is well known, the road freight industry responded to the HIV/AIDS epidemic back in 1994 via the formation of Trucking Against Aids which later developed into the highly successful Trucking Wellness programme.
“It is an established fact that highly mobile populations are particularly vulnerable to HIV infections due to the unique circumstances of their working environment. The Wellness Programme identified innovative ways of ensuring that primary health care services including HIV counselling and testing as well as screening for other ailments is accessible,’ he said.
He added that a network of static and mobile health services has been put in place along the major trucking routes across the country “and this has contributed significantly to our ability as a country to start turning the tide against ill-health.’
He also noted that the approach that has been taken to address not only HIV but all other minor ailments has also contributed significantly to the reduction of stigma and discrimination which are known barriers to care.
“It is also commendable that this initiative has also been extended to the communities around where the services have been established, thus giving expression to your commitment not only to those in your employ but anyone else who present themselves at your clinics seeking care,’ he said.
The fact that the Deputy President took time out of his schedule to attend the RFA convention and interact with the trucking industry was much appreciated by all as it was seen as an acknowledgement of this sector as being a vital player in the economy. The last time a full Minister attended an RFA convention was back in 2005.
The following is his speech as given to the delegates:
“It is a delightful moment for me to address this conference of the Road Freight Association, an important player in the economy of our country.
“It is increasingly clear that our country needs road freight industry that is growing in leaps and bounds so that it can keep growing to meet our developmental needs.
“It is predicted that the economic development within emerging markets could change the world trade dynamic substantially by 2030. In support of this growing trend, the World Bank Logistics Index suggests that low and middle income economies could boost global trade by 15% just by improving logistics performance.
“In order to take full advantage of this ‘˜Trade Revolution’ the South African government, through its National Development Plan, has placed much emphasis on infrastructure development.
“The freight logistics system in South Africa is the heartbeat of economic growth, just as transport is the heartbeat of the economy.
“The biggest challenge to the South African freight logistics system is the ineffective rail, road, split. Although government has elevated the importance of infrastructure development on the national agenda, road continues to dominate the freight industry. Integrated national planning is essential to the success of government’s intention to boost growth through sustainable infrastructure development.
“The Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Committee indicates that government is starting to formulate plans that seek to encourage the rail/road split. Currently the division of cargo between road and rail entailed a split of 88.8% and 11.2% in 2010’.
“The ideal situation is that long-haul cargo, such as coal and iron-ore, should exclusively be transported on rail instead of the road networks.
“There are, however, good examples within the South African logistics supply chain such as coal being transported by rail in the Sishen,Saldanha railway line, which is an 861 km heavy- haul railway line that connects iron-ore mines near Sishen, in the Northern Cape, with the Port at Saldanha Bay, in the Western Cape.
“It is used primarily to transport iron-ore and does not carry passenger traffic. Unfortunately, the coal from the Northern provinces is transported by truck, as rail infrastructure is lacking. This damages main and arterial roads that were not designed for such heavy-freight movement, which leads to the decreases of the life span of roads significantly and also disrupts the maintenance schedule.
“Moving freight from road to rail is a big strategic imperative and State-owned freight logistics group Transnet needs to look at many elements, such as cost and efficiency, when considering moving freight from road to rail.
“The key element that should be considered when moving freight from road to rail is intermodality , the ability to shift between road and rail and as quickly and efficiently as possible. More inland port terminals, such as City Deep in Johannesburg, are needed. Systems need to be put in place to ensure that there are minimal delays when moving cargo from trains to road trucks.
“To this effect the Department of Transport is doing feasibility studies on intermodal facilities along the N3 Durban-Free State-Gauteng Corridor, this process forms part of the Strategic Infrastructure Projects.
“There is also a need to ensure that the regionalisation of transport is prioritised, as the geographic location of South Africa requires adequate, efficient connectivity within SADC if South Africa is to become a trade hub into Africa.
“The evident shortage of technical and transport engineering skills in the country is of great concern, as this stifles the growth and development of the sector. Government had to contend with the private sector and government agencies in attracting this scarce skill and usually government does not win.
“Transnet stresses that technology has become a key driver for logistics businesses globally and seeks to improve the way its infrastructure and equipment is designed, as well as the way it is deployed.
“Transnet wants to emerge as a repository of new intellectual property that could be sold across Africa and to the rest of the world, and has thus collaborated with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research with an initial 13 flagship projects being identified, covering areas such as operational safety, energy efficiency and regeneration, environmental and water management, alternative fuels, tracking and automation, as well as system and enterprise engineering.
“Transnet is also looking into collaboration to find a solution to the ongoing scourge of level-crossing accidents, as well as to find ways to feed electricity generated from train braking systems back into the network
“The absence of real life data continues to be a challenge, although organs such as the CSIR go to great lengths to collate freight logistics information for their annual State of Logistics Survey, even though the information is usually a year late.
“The absence of filling legislation continues to stagnate the process of data collection. To this end the department is setting up a centralised data base for all transport information of which freight logistics will be a part. This is done in an effort to centralise information collation so as to enable government to plan for freight logistics.
“After wide consultation with all the relevant stakeholders, the Department of Transport is in the process of appointing a service provider to assist with the Review of the National Freight Logistics Strategy, 2005. This is an attempt to model and/or remodel the freight logistics industry in the country.’
He ended by wishing the RFA a successful conference with a vision which “will further elevate the road freight industry in our country and impact positively on our economic growth and our country’s development.’