The newly launched Emerging Truckers Association of South Africa (Tasa) aims to assist in meaningfully transforming the local truck and freight industry, with a long-term view of ensuring work for women and black truck owners and operators.
This is according to Tasa convener Mary Phadi, who was addressing delegates at the organisation’s official launch event, in Johannesburg, on Friday.
Phadi said Tasa would represent owner drivers, small transport providers and emerging cargo carriers, all of whom faced stiff competition in the form of existing large operators.
“South African truck operators generate about R12-billion a year, of which R1.1-billion stems from the transportation of coal, while the remaining R10.9-billion is produced through the transportation of goods from industries such as petroleum, manganese, chrome, iron-ore, food and beverages, as well as general cargo,” she noted.
The newly established initiative aims to mitigate the plight and “exploitation” of emerging cargo carriers who are at the mercy of larger players in the sector, with a goal of becoming the interlocker between the industry’s stakeholders.
Tasa organiser Queen Zwane elaborated that, as a product of South Africa’s owner-driver schemes, she understood the challenges that smaller operators faced and the lack of support they have. (Owner-drivers are former employees who have been converted into nominally independent contract drivers.)
Mbatha noted that she knew of many others who had been involved in these schemes who had lost their lives owing to depression and anxiety owing to the lack of support.
“I know people who have lost their houses through their involvement in these owner-driver schemes and I, too, faced intense mental challenges by being involved in these types of initiatives,” Mbatha stated.
She felt that owner-driver schemes were more akin to a recycling initiative than a meaningful black empowerment initiative.
Meanwhile, Department of Public Enterprises manufacturing enterprises deputy-director general Kgathatso Tlhakudi, who also spoke at the launch, commented that government had heard the disgruntlement of coal truck drivers “loud and clear” following their road blockade in Pretoria, in March, over their concerns relating to the contracting of independent power producers (IPPs) by State-owned power utility Eskom.
The truck drivers’ strike was aimed against Eskom contracting IPPs, as they believed it would lead to job losses in the coal transportation sector.
“There is definitely a need to find a compromise on this issue. However, we cannot ignore the realities of new technologies increasingly entering the energy space, particularly that of renewables,” noted Tlhakudi.
He added that State-owned freight and logistics group Transnet’s road-to-rail strategy posed further challenges, with the aim being to reduce the volume of rail-friendly freight transported on national road infrastructure.
“We all need to understand the implications of this strategy on the trucking sector. Stakeholders will need to work together to ensure that some of the unintended consequences of this initiative are mitigated as best possible,” Tlhakudi emphasised.
Further, he suggested that the trucking industry should reflect on the dynamics that existed within the modern transportation sector, beyond the confines of trucking, and focus broadly on the opportunities that existed throughout the sector.
“Some of Transnet’s branch lines are being concessioned and, perhaps, truckers need to examine the opportunities that exist in that space? Truckers must be careful not to corner themselves in and should look at the many opportunities that exist across the full value chain,” Tlhakudi said.
He further pointed out that there was a lot of ongoing research globally related to autonomous systems and self-driving vehicles. “These are technologies that are bound to become part of the transportation sector within the next ten years, and this will impact on how the sector operates.”
Tlhakudi urged Tasa organisers to begin discussions around these issues to ensure that frameworks were put in place to be proactive in dealing with the impact these technological developments would have on employment prospects for haulage drivers in the not too distant future.
Other speakers, who all praised and gave their support towards Tasa, included Transport Deputy Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga; financial services provider VBS Mutual Bank CEO Andile Ramavhunga; former Department of Transport B-BBEE Charter Council chairperson Randall Howard; Coal Transport Forum chairperson Steve Mokwana; and petroleum transporter AM worx Energy MD Kabelo Moloi, among others.