“We will also be focussing on the future of collective bargaining in the road freight industry,” continues van der Westhuizen. The RFA has a bargaining council presence as well as a labour relations forum in which it negotiates on behalf of the industry. “We currently have a three-year deal in place which will elapse in March 2015. The next round of negotiations will be in September 2015 for implementation in March 2016. This is a crucial development for us,” explains van der Westhuizen.
Also up for discussion at the event are the new BEE codes and more specifically the aligning of the industry with the legislation that is scheduled to come into effect during the course of 2015. The impact of the new legislation will have a significant impact on the road freight transportation market.
“We will also be examining and discussing the factors surrounding the incoming Carbon Taxation relevant to the industry,” points out van der Westhuizen.
He reports that the RFA has already submitted its feedback on the White Paper drafted by government in terms of a response but subsequent to this the association has not heard anything further. The process of finalisation has been postponed until 2016 when the taxation will be implemented within the industry and associated markets. The conference is open to all participants in the industry and provides an excellent networking platform between operators and suppliers as a backdrop to the scheduled presentations and panel discussions.
Van der Westhuizen states that the conference is always well represented by provincial and national levels of government – highlighting that last year’s event was opened by the Deputy President of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe.
“In addition we normally have representation in the form of keynote speakers from the Department of Transport, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Minerals and Energy.” The road freight transportation industry has experienced a plateau in volumes as the average South African consumer continues to curb expenditure. Over the last few years the level of some freight types has even declined.
Rising costs and dwindling freight volumes have resulted in several smaller businesses in the industry closing down.
Van der Westhuizen explains that larger corporates have far better negotiating and procurement power. Any rise in costs affects smaller companies much more harshly. With this in mind the Gauteng Etolls are having a much more significant impact on smaller operators than the larger corporates.
“We deal with large blue chip companies where these costs can be recuperated and passed on to the end user, whereas smaller companies deal with broking companies and flat rates between A and B, which are not negotiable, so they end up bearing the costs themselves,” he points out.
The conference will also feature a panel discussing the topic of ‘Building South Africa’. This platform of interaction will touch on infrastructural development in the country and look specifically at the bad conditions of secondary roads and the effect this has on the moving of goods as well as passengers.
The Fields Hill incident will also be discussed in depth as an entry point to a second topic, this being safety. While millions of Rand are spent locally every year on safety awareness South Africa road users continue to be among the worst in the world.
The RFA at a glance
The Road Freight Association was established in 1975 to support its members who are, in the main, road freight service providers. It is a facilitating body that influences the state of the industry, rates, upkeep of road infrastructure, road safety, freight security, driver interests, cross-border transport, development funding for emerging operators, education, health, the fuel price, law enforcement, labour relations and many other issues related to road freight transport. The association’s member companies include small and medium-sized trucking companies, including many family-owned businesses, owner operators, as well as most of the largest trucking companies in South Africa. RFA members come from all sectors of the trucking industry. The RFA’s membership also includes a significant number of “allied trades” – those companies providing goods and services to the trucking industry.
The association’s mission is to add value in a sustainable and professional manner to the road freight industry; provide a collective voice for industry, thus representing the needs and interests of all road freight transport operators; pool resources for the road freight transport industry, thus empowering members to tackle issues that they cannot handle on an individual basis; support the establishment and growth of small businesses; ensure that the industry is aligned with the value system of the country; and encourage the commitment of members to its core values and standards.
Safety Vital for Road Freight Industry
September 5, 2013, is a date that is in embedded in South Africa’s road safety record. Sadly its legacy is the death of 24 people caused by the nightmarish accident at an intersection located at the bottom of Fields Hill in Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal. Those in the road freight transportation industry refer to the incident as their ‘Marikana’ – a definite turning point for the future of their industry.
The infamous incident and all of its complexities, along with other concerns regarding road safety will be thoroughly unpacked and discussed at the Road Freight Association’s annual conference being held between 8 and 10 June 2014. Nico van der Westhuizen, Chairperson of the Road Freight Association (RFA) highlights that other main topics include factors influencing an industry under pressure, fierce industry competition and issues surrounding labour. Themed ‘Trucking Excellence’ the event will seek to explore the significant challenges faced by road freight transportation participants, both large and small, in an industry which has seen operating costs skyrocket due to fuel cost escalation coupled with flat freight volumes over the last 12 to 18 months.
by Richard Jansen van Vuuren