Over the past few days, urgent – if not panicky – calls have emanated from various authorities to implement “measures” to address the recent spate of crashes. This has been coupled with some well-reported scenes of very bad driving.

The Deputy President has also called for an “Imbizo” to discuss these events.

The reality is this: had all the conditions of the National Road Traffic Act, Act 93 of 1996 (as amended) and proclaimed in 1996 been implemented, monitored and enforced, then there would not be these scenes playing out on a regular basis. Add to that, the requirements of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) which includes registration with the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI), the reality that drivers are paid by load, and not as per the very clearly defined conditions of employment: we would not be where we are today.

The Road Freight Association (RFA) was closely involved with the Department of Transport in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when it crafted legislation that would effectively and efficiently regulate operators (both freight and passenger). This included mechanisms and requirements to deal with the very causes of what we have recently seen happening on our roads.

Unfortunately, through very poor and highly contentious traffic policing and management services, very weak implementation of regulatory requirements by both transport authorities and labour authorities, and the ability for any individual to operate a fleet with very little chance of quality control or actions to remove non-compliant fleet operators, we have arrived at the point on our roads where we are today.

The RFA has continuously called for action to be taken against non-compliant operators – since the announcement of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) legislation,  as well as during all the scenes of violence and destruction through the actions of groupings opposed to the employment of foreigners in the industry – and as various horror crashes have filled our screens and news (who still recalls the Fields Hill and Town Hill crashes some years back?). Sadly, the authorities have not heeded our call.

This is what lies at the foundation of most (if not all) the ills plaguing the industry. Those operators who refuse to register with and abide by the NBCRFLI Main Agreement (negotiated and agreed to by the Employers and Employees as represented by their duly registered, recognised and compliant representative organisations) must be held accountable and dealt with.

As the RFA has noted to various Ministers of Transport on various occasions: non-compliant operators (as in not complying with the requirements of the NRTA and the LRA) MUST be removed from public roads.

Has an accident investigation been completed for the recent crash? Have accident investigators even been appointed? What can we learn from what happened? What is the status of the operator (owner of the vehicle and employer of the driver)?

Around the world, where road safety appears to be at far higher levels, there are a couple of common denominators:

1          Professional, well-trained and uncompromising road traffic policing services

2          Strict registration requirements for all public fleet operators

3          Compulsory registration requirements with independent trade associations which check standards compliance before registration is done (by the relevant authorities)

4          Swift and targeted action against those who choose to be non-compliant.

There is no need for Imbizos and other gatherings.

There is a need to remove non-compliant operators from the road. There is the need to listen to the registered and recognised representative organisations that operate daily and that would have expertise and experience in the operation of fleets and the governance therefor.

Members of the RFA are bound by a strict code – the Core Code – and are required to implement the Road Transport Quality System (RTQS) principles of the Association. Where they fail to comply, and investigation is done. Members are held accountable and, where required, membership is terminated.

One of the reasons why some road freight operators are not members of the RFA is because they do not wish to comply with the Core Code of the RFA.

Mr Minister, start implementing the NRTA as is currently stands. Use independent registered freight associations to assist you (we were part of the drafting of the NRTA and advised on the creation of regulations to specifically deal with operators).

Unfortunately, no matter how much we would all like the rail system to play its rightful role in the transportation of goods (and people) across our country, – that will still some time in ever becoming a reliable and sustainable alternative. We need to deal with non-compliant operators (or any users of public roads).

By Gavin Kelly – Chief Executive Officer: The Road Freight Association

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