FleetWatch picked up on a news report by Wheels24 on Wednesday stating that Transport Minister Dipuo Peters is proposing restrictions for goods vehicles on public roads. The report quotes Peters as saying: “This is in response to the increase in the number of road carnage that involves goods vehicles on the South African roads.”
According to the Department of Transport, the restrictions will affect commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) exceeding 9 000kg. The intended regulations will be published for public comment and discussion later in 2015.
The new regulations state: “No person shall operate on the public road a goods vehicle the gross vehicle mass of which exceeds 9 000kg from 17:00 to 20:00 Monday to Friday (except public holidays) and from 06:00 to 09:00 Monday to Friday (except public holidays).”
Check it out. What this means is that all goods vehicles with a GVM of 9 000kg must be off the roads for three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon and will only be allowed to use the roads from 09h00 to 16h00 and from 20h00 to 06h00 during week days.
The department adds: “This provision shall not apply in case of emergencies to the driver of a fire-fighting vehicle, a fire-fighting response vehicle, an emergency medical response vehicle, a rescue vehicle or an ambulance, who drives such vehicle in the performance of his or her duties, a traffic officer or a person appointed in terms of the South African Police Service Act, 1995 (Act No 68 of 1995), who drives a vehicle in the carrying out of his or her duties or any person driving a vehicle while responding to a disaster as contemplated in the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No 57 of 2002).”
Transport department spokesperson, Ishmael Mnisi, is quoted in the Wheels24 report as saying that the regulations are in “draft form” and will have to be presented to his party’s cabinet, discussed in Parliament and will incorporate public input. He states that the department hopes to implement the proposed regulations by the end of 2015.
FleetWatch states up-front that this is a nonsensical proposal that has absolutely no chance of working or coming near to achieving the desired outcome of reducing crashes as envisaged by the Minister. We went through this once before back in 2002 when the then MEC for Transport in Gauteng, Khabisi Mosunkutu, wanted to ban trucks during peak hours so as to ease congestion. And that was just in Gauteng. Minister Peter’s proposal applies to the whole of South Africa.
FleetWatch strongly opposed the then MEC’s proposal and the Editor had a personal meeting with him where the wider picture was spelt out to him of the negative effects this would have on the entire supply chain – leading right back to overseas suppliers – as well as the massive negative effect it would have on the economy. In essence, it would cause absolute chaos and do irreparable harm to the economy. To his eternal credit, the MEC reversed his decision and it never happened.
The same considerations apply to this day and I point out just one aspect that will need to be taken into account and provided for. Let’s just take one route – the N3. Where will the thousands of trucks that come in from Durban to Johannesburg park during the three hours restricted period in the mornings? And where will the thousands of trucks that travel from Johannesburg to Durban every night park on the Durban side when they arrive in the morning?
The average number of trucks that use the N3 every day is around 3 500. The maximum length allowed for a combination rig is 23m. Let’s just work on say 1 000 trucks arriving on both sides every morning. The balance arrive spread out during the day. That’s 23 kilometres of heavy metal that will need to be parked off every morning and evening. And by the way, Best Practise will also require that separate parking facilities be provided for vehicles carrying Dangerous Goods.
Readers may recall the incident reported in FleetWatch last November of the tragedy that occurred on November 24th at the Kasumbalesa border post between Zambia and DRC when 70 trucks were burnt out in a parking lot. Lives were lost and many millions of Rand of assets were destroyed due to a petrol tanker being clipped by a container truck. The fuel leaked down into an area where the drivers were cooking and that’s where it all started.
Barney Curtis, executive director of The Federation of East and Southern Africa Road Transport Associations, stated in our report that vehicles carrying Dangerous Goods, when parked in congested areas, are an accident waiting to happen. “The problem remains and something has to be done about it – either give Dangerous Goods vehicles fast (border) clearance, or give them a special parking area. We know that borders are congested and space is at a premium. But, the stakes are too high to not make some concessions,” he said.
There were 70 trucks burnt out on that fateful day. Now imagine 1 000 trucks needing to be parked off outside of both Johannesburg and Durban – and all others centres around the country. One small fire will get us on the front pages of every newspaper around the world as the biggest truck tragedy ever to be recorded in the history of trucking internationally.
The mind boggles. And that’s only looking at the parking aspect that will have to be taken into consideration under this proposal. There are many others that make it impractical.
I would also like you to recall the proposal made by the DoT in 2009 to reduce the single rear axle mass load from 9 000 kg to 8 000 kg on all secondary roads. This was to prevent road damage caused by trucks. The proposal was made by the DoT based on the input of some ‘consultants’ without any thought been given by those ‘consultants’ to the practical implications of what they were proposing. It would have been chaos. They didn’t have a clue.
FleetWatch correspondent Max Braun wrote in a FleetWatch article at the time: “…to implement this suggested amendment would be chaotic, disastrous, expensive and inflationary with almost zero contribution to solving the problems at hand.” You can read that article by clicking here.
Your input is needed
The only good news in among all this is that as stated by DoT department spokesperson, Ishmael Mnisi, public input will be sought and FleetWatch will certainly be submitting its input. In the meantime, I urge all transport companies to please submit to FleetWatch how you see it affecting your operations – not only long haul but also FMCG operators who will be severely affected. Is it practical? Is it feasible? Is it workable? How will you be affected – and at what cost?
If you want to have a look back at what was written in FleetWatch during the 2002 saga, please click here for the story headed ‘Industry Balks at MEC’s proposal” and click here for the sum up in the Editors Comment at the time.
Please take this seriously and submit your input to The Editor by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. I am sure the Minister’s intentions are honourable. It’s just that the route she is proposing to take to improve road safety when it comes to trucks is totally impractical and unworkable. There are others ways of doing it. That’s our opinion. What is yours?