Urgent action needed to solve N3 truck crisis

02 July 2019 | Web Article Number: ME201915131

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Urgent action needed to solve N3 truck crisis

WITH attacks on trucks and other vehicles on the N3 between Durban and Johannesburg having cost the economy more than R1 billion since March last year, logistics companies fear recently announced government plans to tackle the crisis may not go far enough.

Among the steps agreed by an inter-ministerial task team are the establishment of a rapid response team, ending the illegal employment of foreigners, skills development of local drivers the creation of a database of unemployed drivers, and a review of work permit legislation.

But for the Road Freight Association (RFA), the chief priority should by the safety of drivers, vehicles and premises, and they have called for urgent intervention by the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele.

“Since March 2018, a targeted attack on the freight industry has been orchestrated by the All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF) and its allies, in the name of foreign drivers ‘stealing their jobs’,” the RFA said in a statement following a recent resurgence in attacks, most of them along the crucial N3 logistics corridor.

“There are verified reports of blatant intimidation, bullying and the threatening of drivers and companies who do not meet the demands of the ATDF and its allies. These demands are the immediate firing of all or any foreign nationals employed in a company, the immediate employment of individuals supplied by the ATDF, payment to the ATDF of R350 per person per month for each individual supplied by the ATDF and control over who a company employs.”

According to the RFA, companies who do not comply are threatened with retaliation and the burning of trucks. Recently, shots have been fired at trucks.

It estimated that the campaign had resulted in the damage or total destruction of 1200 vehicles from bakkies to large trucks as well as the loss of 213 lives. It also put the cost to the national economy at close to R1.2 billion in lost income for businesses, drivers and their families, and loss of and damage to vehicles, cargo, and infrastructure, including roads, offices and depots.

“Some businesses will be forced to close down due to losses.”

The RFA urged Cele to prevent any further incidents by utilising the police’s intelligence capacity, to arrest all perpetrators of the attacks and their known leaders and re-iterate government's view that this is economic sabotage and that criminals will be harshly dealt with.

It also called for the creation of a national task team to combat the attacks.

“Should there be no satisfactory evidence that the above is being implemented, the RFA reserves its rights to take whatever action is necessary to get government to take action.

“Should such a situation present itself, we will require that each and every transporter join us in solidarity in whatever actions we then take to safeguard our employees, our businesses and the economic future of our country,” the association said, without giving any details of what actions it envisaged.

There are some signs that government is heeding the plea. Speaking to The Mercury newspaper recently, Transport MEC Mxolisi Kaunda said patrols on the freeway were continuing, and that since the stakeholders’ meeting on 3 June, no incidents of truck attacks on the highway had been reported.

“So far we are happy with the progress the inter-ministerial team has made,” he said, denying reports that the N3 freeway was among the most dangerous routes in South Africa.

However, statistics from the N3 Toll Concession seem to contradict this assurance, revealing show that 51 trucks were set alight between Cedara, outside Pietermaritzburg, and Heidelberg, near Johannesburg since April last year.

The Mercury reported that on just one day in May 2019, more than 15 trucks were petrol-bombed at Cato Ridge, the R103, Dalton, Bayhead Road, Pietermaritzburg and Mooi River. A total of 60 trucks were attack countrywide that month.

The newspaper also revealed that Hollard Insurance, which insures about 16500 trucks, received more than R237 million in claims between November last year and May this year. Of the 5030 claims registered during this period, 52 related to damage incurred during protest action and totalled R27.3 million, making up 11% of all claims during the period.

Non-commercial traffic has also been affected, with the N3 Toll Concession warning motorists against travelling on the highway at night.

“It is advisable to rather plan long distance trips during daylight hours,” said the concession’s Commercial Manager, Con Roux.

“Disruptive actions by protesters, mostly aimed at the trucking industry, are often opportunistic and unpredictable and mostly occur under the cover of darkness. It is also not limited to a specific area, location or route,” he said.

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