Trucking industry a ticking time-bomb as issues remain unresolved, industry players warn

The remains of two trucks targeted and burnt in 2023. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

The remains of two trucks targeted and burnt in 2023. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

Published Apr 2, 2024


The All-Truck Drivers Forum and Allied SA (ATDF ASA) has warned of the ticking time-bomb, as issues that led to the blockade of major commercial arteries and burning of trucks in protests against industry standards have not been addressed two years after the a Road Freight and Logistics Task Team was set up.

The forum said the Task Team, which was to serve as a conduit to the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) and comprised all stakeholders within the road freight industry, the departments of Transport, Home Affairs, Employment and Labour, the SAPS, International Relations and Cooperation, the Road Freight Association (RFA) and Trucking Association of South Africa, among others, has faded into oblivion without addressing the 11-point plan charted.

ATDF ASA chairperson Mandla Mngomezulu said in an interview with Business Report nothing had come of the task team since the initiating politician, then transport minister Fikile Mbalula, had initiated the task team at the height of protests that saw about 21 trucks burnt on various freeways including the N3, N2, N3, and N4 highways in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo last year.

“They are sitting on a time-bomb that could explode any time soon. This task team used to meet once a month, but we never saw any progress. They would write reports from their offices, but we are still faced with the problems. There are companies that are still employing foreigners while South African drivers remain unemployed,“ he said.

The forum had identified the companies that still continued to employ foreigners and sporadic road checks conducted by its members indicated that employers, particularly coal transporters had reneged on the agreements.

Mbalula’s intervention led to the signing of a task team implementation plan document in June, 2022, that would have ensured minimal employment of foreigners as truck drivers.

The action plan involves facilitating the appointment of a task team, enforcing visa requirements, consideration of all foreign driving licences, registration and compliance with labour laws and registration of operators in terms of section 45 of the National Road Traffic Act.

The plan also sets out to review the traffic register number, review cross-border road transport legislation, amend the National Road Traffic Regulations, integrated joint multidisciplinary law-enforcement operations and a driver- training programme, as well as consider the introduction of operating licences for the industry.

The ATDF SA, said at the time it condemned the widespread damage and had signed agreements with the logistics sector, and the transport and labour department to raise drivers’ grievances and confront the problem of logistics operators not complying with labour regulations.

Secretary-general Sifiso Nyathi said, “As the ATDF, we have voiced our grievances with the Department of Labour and Transport and with various ministers since 2018, but it’s still the same. These people employ foreigners, they are not operating within the regulations of industry, no one is pointing a finger at them.”

RFA CEO Gavin Kelly confirmed that monthly meetings have been convened and some progress had been made on some of the tasks, though the task team’s progress had slowed to a crawl.

“There has been difficulty with a quorum not achieved in November and December, 2023, and January, 2024. The association believes that the pace of progress is being hampered as the chairing of the meeting has been allowed to devolve to levels below that mandated as decision-makers… It is suggested that the deputy-director general of roads at the Department of Transport be contacted for comment on progress as well as the affected party, the ATDF,” Kelly said.

The department had not responded to enquiries through its media and communications team.

At the height of last year’s protests, Kelly said the long-term effect of the damaged assets, delayed delivery of cargo and the costs as exporters awaited the major arteries to clear would over time increase security costs, higher insurance premiums and toll fees with less freight movement through South African ports.

He said that depending on the vehicle and cargo value, short-term losses could be between R3 million and R10m. Capital losses of the six trucks destroyed on the N3 alone amounted to “anything between R18  million to R60 million”.