There is a common slogan that, “Without trucks, South Africa stops!” Never has this been more true than now in the time of the coronavirus pandemic. With the national lockdown, and more and more countries in Africa introducing strict measures, it is the road freight operators who will ensure that much-needed products are delivered – on time, to the right people, at the right place.
We at the Road Freight Association are committed to playing our part and working hard to support the industry and our members during these times. Business is not as usual and there is much confusion surrounding operations – especially at ports and borders, but the stringent Lockdown measures introduced must be taken to prevent the spread of the virus. These are NOT normal times.
Regular social media posts keep truckers up-to-date with the operational challenges as they occur, whilst the RFA uses its network in the background to try to unlock or solve these to ensure that the essential goods are delivered.
In the past few weeks, the RFA has:
1. Set up WhatsApp Groups comprising road freight operators (some groups are open to non-members due to these extraordinary times) and other key stakeholders including the Department of Transport (DoT), SARS Customs, the SA Police Services, the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission (CIPC), media, toll concessionaires, as well as ports authorities.
This initiative has proved highly effective, creating a powerful network for truckers and enabling accurate information to be shared timeously, as well as clarifying misunderstandings, removing bottlenecks, giving updates and sharing key contacts.
2. Developed and issued guidelines for the many new regulations that have been introduced in the past few weeks relating to Covid19 and the Disaster Management Act. These Regulations cover matters such as additions to essential services, the extension of validity of licences (learners and drivers), Professional Driving Permits (PrDPs), vehicle licences, roadworthiness certificates, as well as temporary permits. Our guidelines have simplified regulations, making them easier to understand and therefore quicker to implement.
3. Intervened where Members had various challenges in delivering goods. The types of issues truckers have had to deal with include getting the necessary permits to operate, being stuck at roadblocks, being stopped in towns – despite having all the necessary documents, as well as congestion at border posts. We have also been able to clarify numerous matters such as whether all types of cargo can move in and out of ports.
4. Resolved challenges being encountered in the KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo provinces, which closed their exemption permit offices days before the lockdown, without making plans to deal with essential abnormal goods permits that are essential goods. The RFA engaged with the Departments of Transport in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo and they quickly made plans to address the need for permits. These are now being issued.
5. However, we are still trying to resolve this matter in the North West province, which closed their offices after business on 24 March without making contingency plans for issuing permits. The RFA has been engaging with departmental staff since 27 March on this matter, but with no success. This matter has now been escalated to the Premier of the North West Province for urgent intervention.
6. Shared legal opinions and guidelines to assist trucking companies with surviving the Lockdown, as well as being able to access various initiatives in place such as the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS).
7. Compiled a Frequently Asked Questions document to assist truckers with questions relating to Covid19 and the lockdown.
8. Been in regular contact with members via email to keep them up-to-date via email, as well as on our social media platforms.
9. Partnered with various industry and business organisations to document and share incidents in the SADC region, so that these can be addressed as a matter of urgency.
We would like to thank all the government departments, agencies, industry and trade associations and private companies – both within our borders and beyond – that are working with us to ensure that the wheels of our economy keep turning and that the road freight industry continues to deliver much-needed goods at this critical time.
Over the coming weeks, we will no doubt face more challenges, but we are confident that, by working together and with even greater collaboration, the trucking industry will continue to keep the wheels of the economy turning.