The move to revive a long standing proposal, once made to replace road freight permits, is opposed in principle by road freight operators, who fear red tape and a recurrence of the defunct rod freight permit system that once served the interests of state rail cargo services.
If enforced partly by toll gates, linked to the introduction of metro freeway tolling gates and electronic monitoring of traffic by ‘smart’ number plates and high tech detectors, the proposal could serve to partly legitimise the enormous cost of crippling road toll infrastructure and administration.
SARF president, Mutshutshu Nxumalo, said that “overturned trucks are virtually a daily occurrence, resulting in inconvenience to road users, injury, loss of life and huge expense. Speeding, overloading and poorly secured loads are contributing factors, as are unroadworthy vehicles and driver fatigue.
“Truckers are often forced to drive for up to 16 hours at a stretch, and to take drugs to keep awake. About 83% of road fatalities are caused by human error,” said Nxumalo.
A report by The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) showed that in 2009 there were 117 403 LDVs and 54 296 heavy vehicles that were not roadworthy or unlicensed, or both. The heavy vehicle population stood at 321 604, and 17% of them should have been taken off the road.
Quality system versus ‘permits’
A road freight quality system was proposed in 1986 in a white paper on transport policy, stating government’s intention to implement such a system instead of the road freight permit system, which was partly aimed at limiting road freight and forcing business to use state rail services.
Despite huge growth in SA road freight after lifting of the road freight permit system, a freight quality system was not implemented, mainly due to opposition and political lobbying by the road freight industry.
In about 1996, a white paper proposed that “traffic control by law enforcement was a priority in traffic management, due to a severe breakdown of discipline on roads, which in turn led to unsafe conditions… a simplified Road Transport Quality System will be fully enunciated and implemented as a matter of urgency”.
“Government has not come anywhere near to implementing the system, giving free reign to unscrupulous operators and badly trained drivers who continue to wreak havoc on our roads,” said SARF.
In 2006, John Schnell, one of South Africa’s most competent traffic officials, said that the failure to implement RTQS and the lack of enforceable driving hours, as set out in the Road Traffic Act, were major contributors to unsafe conditions on roads and directly responsible for late night and early morning accidents.
Working hours is also regulated in labour legislation. SARF had recommended in 2006 that the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) be given law enforcement powers. The new proposal is said to be “watered down from 2006 proposals”.
SARF wants government to “initiate a national RTQS based safety campaign… fund recruitment and training of additional traffic personnel, and maintain the highway grid”.
Roadside health tests by the N3 toll operator proved impaired alertness and lack of judgement in tired drivers. Toll operators already use sophisticated tracking and monitoring systems, but do not yet apply these to enforce safe professional driving shifts.
SA Road Traffic Act amended
The SA Road Traffic Act could be amended as follows;
(b) substitution of the definition of “goods vehicle”; a motor vehicle, other than a motor cycle, motor tricycle, motor car, mini-bus or bus, designed or adapted for the conveyance of goods on a public road and includes a truck-tractor, haulage tractor, adaptor dolly, converter dolly and breakdown vehicle;
(c) insertion after the definition of “certification of roadworthiness” of the following definition; “consignee” in relation to goods transported or to be transported by a vehicle means the person who is named or otherwise identified as the intended consignee of the goods in the goods declaration for the consignment and who actually receives the goods after the goods are transported by road;
“consignor” means a person who is named or otherwise identified as the consignor of goods in the goods declaration relating to the transportation of goods by road or engages an operator of a vehicle, either directly or indirectly or through an agent or other intermediary, to transport the goods by road or has possession of, or control over, the goods immediately before the goods are transported by road or loads a vehicle with the goods, for transport by road, at a place where goods are stored in bulk or temporarily held but excludes a driver of the vehicle, a trainee driver or any person necessary for the normal operation of the vehicle during loading.
Regulation 237 may be amended by the substitution of the proviso clause at the end of subregulation (2): “provided that the permissible maximum combination mass of a combination shall not exceed 56 000 kilograms: provided further that in the case where the drawing vehicle is a haulage tractor with a single driving axle, the permissible maximum combination mass shall not exceed 48 000kg.”