Home Fleetwatch 2022 South African road freight industry at risk of over-regulation

South African road freight industry at risk of over-regulation

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Pieter Vermeulen, CEO of Crossroads Distribution: “The playing field is uneven due to over-regulation.”
Pieter Vermeulen, CEO of Crossroads Distribution: “The playing field is uneven due to over-regulation.”

What’s the point of having rules when the playing field isn’t level and the ref turns a blind eye to foul play? If you’re playing rugby or soccer, you might walk off the field but in commercial truck transport, there’s no walking away easily. In the face of increasingly stringent safety legislation, compliant truck fleet operators are battling to stay afloat while rogue operators go unchecked by authorities.

“The South African road freight industry is facing severe operational challenges, not least of which is over-regulation when it comes to safety and the lack of government enforcement of compliance standards,” says Crossroads Distribution CEO, Pieter Vermeulen. “There is a risk the industry is over regulating itself to the detriment of compliant operators.”

Crossroads Distribution has a history spanning nearly 100 years and is well positioned to comment on the compliance issue, having certifications including ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001, RTMS and SQAS. 

“While we’re doing what we need to do to the letter of the law, non-compliant operators continue to act with impunity, hiring foreign workers at low rates and skimping on maintenance and fleet management, putting themselves and the public at risk,” says Vermeulen. 

“We’ve created an uneven playing field by over-regulating, while the rules we’ve set aren’t being evenly applied across the industry and there’s very little by way of government enforcement to change this status quo.” 

Vermeulen’s concerns echo those of Road Freight Association (RFA) CEO, Gavin Kelly, who noted the association is “closely monitoring” ongoing efforts by the Department of Transport to enforce stricter safety regulations, with particular attention to AARTO and RTMC initiatives.

In his keynote address at the annual RFA Conference in May, Kelly also suggested that trucking operators were at risk of going out of business as they struggled to comply with the increasingly arduous legislative and regulatory landscape. He added that the industry faces multiple challenges on several fronts, including congestion at border posts and ports due to enormous administration backlogs and failing systems, rampant crime, and labour supply issues. 

RFA Chairperson Penwell Lunga concurred, calling on business to play its part in ensuring the industry’s continued growth. “You are the Man in the Arena,” said Lunga, citing the famous speech by American president, Theodore Roosevelt and highlighting the role of business to uplift the industry despite its many challenges. 

The message is clear – “Without Trucks, South Africa Stops!” so let’s get the playing levels equal for all.

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