The Changing Scene in South African Transport

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Tuesday, 16th August 2016

The world is changing, as it always has, and transport is the “tail on the dog” as a customer dependent industry. The effect of the changes is to create challenges presented by customer demands but at the same time to provide opportunities for transport innovation to meet the continually changing shape of the service package required by supply chain logistics.

In the ports, bigger ships have led to very expensive deepening and widening of entrance channels, rebuilding berths to provide more draught and installation of cranes with extended reach and higher lift capacities as container weights increase and the shift to high cube containers continues. This wharfside development is not yet being accompanied by more space for container storage, bulk depots, more efficient handling systems and provision of marshalling and transfer yards; the lack of landside expansion is having negative impacts on efficiency and costs

In Durban the changes in aviation led to the building of a whole new airport to provide for longer runways for aircraft that may not be in regular service for another 20 years. The New facilities provide for possible future demand for freight handling capacity that will become necessary at some distant future date.

The railways are strengthening lines to meet the axle load demands of new generation locomotives, heavier trains and higher travel speeds. The transport of high cube containers has seen the official “rail gauge” abandoned, as they fit through the tunnels, and have become the norm for container handling.

In aviation the continuing evolution of aircraft design has led to improves safety, better fuel consumption, reduced emissions and containment of costs due to clever design, and highly effective maintenance systems.

Pipe transport has become highly technology oriented with the management of flows using intelligent “pigs” operating in flow management systems that are continually improving as technology advances.

In road haulage there is continual innovation in vehicle and trailer design and capacities. The capabilities of modern vehicles were not even imagined 20 years ago, with interlinks, super links, ceramics, ABS braking , steel radial tyres, telematics and PBS being routine current fare. International communications with drivers, scheduling systems, on-board recording and data based monitoring are the tools of professionalism.

The administrative and regulatory systems for management of the freight logistics industries have not kept pace with the industries in freight logistics. The South African weighbridge system with 60 + fixed installations is not effective in controlling the “cowboys“, but is holding average overloads down to 850 kgs; (which is insignificant, and shows high levels of compliance by the industry). The availability of High-Speed-Weigh-in Motion (HSWIM), computerised database, and number-plate recognition camera technology will make a major difference to overloading and speed control once installed in the right places and linked to a central registers of owners and transport operators.

The current impasse in changing road freight regulations to permit legal transport of High Cube containers is part of the legislative archaisms that include abnormal load permits, terms of the “Professional Driver” permits, HGV driver age limits, consignor-consignee legislation, and cross-border permits. It is to be hoped that the process of defining a Road Freight Strategy will permit redefinition and resolution of many of these and other outstanding issues.

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