Following on from last month’s story titled ‘Outrage at DoT proposal’
where we solicited comment on the proposal by the DoT to reduce the single
rear axle mass load from 9 000 kg to 8 000 kg on all secondary roads,
FleetWatch correspondent Max Braun, who has over
50 years experience in the industry, gives his thoughts on the issue. He,
like many in the industry, is angry.
ill-considered intention to reduce the axle mass to 8 000 kg from 9 000 kg
for all vehicles plying secondary roads and then “nogal” to ban certain
unspecified commodities from being transported by road is a slap in the
face for the road freight industry.
This is especially so since
it comes at a time when the road freight industry is acting as the glue
holding our national freight logistics together - regardless of whether or
not the industry wants to transport a host of commodities and products
that should ideally be hauled on rail.
This proposal is totally
unrealistic - if not an idiotic notion - that spells out an almost total
lack of understanding of the most fundamental aspects of current road
traffic regulations and the true reasons for the serious deterioration of
the majority of our roads other than the national and tolled highways.
Without going into
technicalities, the following details just a few of the reasons why a
decision to implement this suggested amendment would be chaotic,
disastrous, expensive and inflationary, with almost zero contribution to
solving the problems at hand.
Hopefully, we will hear a
unified voice from all spheres of freight transport loudly articulating
the stupidity of tinkering with regulations. The NDoT should focus on the
cause and not the symptoms of the problems we all want to resolve.
Here are just a few reasons
why lowering the current maximum axle mass is a ‘no brainer’:
Imagine a truck carrying a
load - any load that may be perishable, fresh produce, palletised or
bulk - travelling along a national road becoming illegal as soon as it
moves onto a road that is not a national road. Other than underloading
these vehicles, how do you cope with this problem and who pays for
having to make more trips to move the same amount of goods?
Now reverse the above
example of a vehicle carrying the envisaged lower payload on a secondary
road. When it reaches the national road, it will be under-loaded and
more trips are needed. Who pays? It is incomprehensible to contemplate
vehicles being partially unloaded at the side of the road when they
leave a national road.
Hauling less than the
optimum payload increases the fixed costs of operating trucks. Given the
huge problems with delays at most retail and other outlets, how can the
increased cost be recovered? Do we put up the price of foodstuffs? Is
this not what we are striving to make more affordable?
What about the impact on
the cost of transporting coal for Escom? What about the impact on the
cost of transporting our export fruit, virtually all of which is moved
by road and will remain so for at least another 12 years?
If the average traffic
officer admits he has never been trained to undertake a roadside
roadworthy check on trucks, who will police and enforce this complicated
amendment? Will traffic cops just straight out ask for a bribe and let
the truck move on without any checking?
When will all the
accredited weighbridges be re-calibrated to monitor the change in
Why should any operator
purchase an urgently needed replacement truck if they are uncertain what
the law will allow in the future?
Drive axles limited to 8
000kg would reduce the GCM of 6x2 truck-tractors to 40 tons from 45 tons
(see Regulation 239) robbing those who pursued this configuration of its
attractive fuel and other operating economies.
What is the intention when
it comes to the overall GCM limit of 56 000kg? In terms of the present
regulations, the sum of the axles in say a 7-axle interlink is 61,5
tons. The intended amendment would reduce this to 55 500kg plus 2%. What
then is the purpose of this fatuous intention - or are we still to learn
that the agreed maximum will be some lesser figure?
According to the CSIR,
SANRAL and the transport minister’s office, they were not consulted
about the intention nor had any knowledge that it was being discussed.
How can road traffic regulations concerning axle mass and road damage be
discussed publicly before the CSIR has investigated the viability and
wisdom of the notion?
Roads in South Africa are
built to the E80 specification. Failure to maintain them over a long
period is the reason for the current state of roads other than national
roads. If you want proof of this, see representations made by SABITA to
government before 1994 suggesting an amount of R40-billion was needed to
get our roads up to standard. See Moving South Africa – the Vision for
2020. This excellent project - tabled in 1998 - highlighted the urgent
need for a proper, ongoing strategy to repair and maintain the roads.
See the 2008 State of Freight Logistics Survey where it is reported that
road freight has suffered serious increases to its operating costs due
to the poor state of the roads. See the AA Report of October 2008
drawing attention to the R95-billion needed to save the provincial
roads. Why has government not displayed the political will to solve this
Yes, overloading does have
a detrimental impact on roads. Why has the overload project supported
with our world class road traffic legislation not enforced the law? If
the fundamental elements of the law are not enforced, why should anyone
believe an amendment to the Act will be efficiently enforced?
Why threaten to move
freight on to the rail when the rail has publicly stated (see Transnet’s
latest operating results) that it will focus on transporting coal and
iron ore for the medium term and in due course, will focus on the
corridors. Yes please, we need the rail to take on the heavy, bulk
commodities as soon as possible. But, the reality is that road freight
will have to move the bulk of all freight logistics for many years to
come. Please do not unnecessarily screw it up.
Once again, we feel the
brunt of government’s lack of respect for road freight transport. This,
surely, is a clarion call for all stakeholders and roleplayers in the
business of freight logistics to form a working group that is properly
representative of this vital national function and get down to some serous
engagement with all the relevant government agencies where freight
transport is applicable.