Challenges and rising costs persist in road freight sector

While 2024 has brought some relief to the road freight sector, ongoing challenges persist, driving up costs and increasing tension. Addressing delegates at the annual Road Freight Association (RFA) conference in Hermanus over the weekend, RFA CEO Gavin Kelly said the trucking industry remained under pressure, operating in tough economic times. "In 2023, we faced four major challenges, with congestion probably one of the biggest," he said during his keynote address. "This wasn't just congestion at the various land border posts but also at the harbours in the country.

Crime remained at the top of the agenda, and while the RFA does not discuss rates, it is safe to say that they were under pressure." Fast-forward to 2024, and Kelly noted that while some of the congestion issues had been addressed, with queues at border posts significantly shorter and recovery plans delivering more fluidity in the ports, the sector is not out of the woods. "Ongoing delays at ports and borders continue to drive up cost," he said. "Sars customs has significantly reduced wait times at border posts and the ports are also seeing backlogs clear, with new equipment and better controls in place, but we continue to experience delays."

He expressed concerns about Transnet, emphasising the need for significant changes in the logistics approach. "If we don't fix this, we're in trouble," he warned. He also mentioned ongoing efforts by the Department of Transport to enforce stricter safety regulations, with particular attention to the Aarto and RTMC initiatives "We are closely monitoring these developments," he added, indicating that trucking operators were at risk of going out of business as they struggled to comply with the increasingly arduous legislative and regulatory landscape. Addressing crime, Kelly noted the involvement of the Presidential Crisis Committee. "We have representatives in the committee, and we are beginning to see some progress," he stated.

On labour issues, Kelly acknowledged the tighter margins and limited room for wage increases, noting that despite these challenges, for the past 12 years the road freight sector had seen little to no violence during wage negotiations. He attributed this to the dedication of both labour and employers to work together collaboratively. Looking ahead, Kelly noted the significant uncertainty surrounding the outcome of this week's national election. "We are keeping a close eye on developments, and as an association, we will forge new relationships with key ministries.

We are hopeful for positive change that will drive economic growth in the country," he said.