With so many challenges currently facing the road freight industry, control and regulation standards are paramount
The road freight sector in most of eastern and southern Africa is under extreme pressure, due to rising costs, deteriorating roads, a reduction in industrial outputs, and the ever-increasing imposition of more taxes and levies. The situation is aggravated by the lack of effective training at all levels.
In South Africa, the National Diploma in Road Transport Management no longer relates to managerial activities. The demise of the apprenticeship system and the revised institutional arrangements have diluted technical training standards, and the total lack of professionally developed heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver training courses means that entry-level truck drivers effectively learn by “hit or miss” practise on the roads.
It must also be noted that the Professional Driver Permit (PrDP) has no professional content or training requirement. The current situation throughout eastern and southern Africa is that there are no industry entry requirements and no effective records of operators, their vehicles, drivers and operations in any databases that permit monitoring of performance quality.
In response to the foregoing, the RFS defines the elements of an operator registration system, which includes the requirement for a nominated Responsible Competent Person (RCP), and details of fleets and drivers for each operating centre.
This requirement will necessitate the creation of entry-level managerial training for qualification of the registered RCP Holders. This is a base requirement for the operator registration system. It is envisaged that the initial requirements for RCP registration will have “grandfather” clauses, but the intention is to ramp up the qualification as quickly as possible.
The courses will be developed in collaboration with the industry and must be practical and focused on international best practice to promote improved quality of operations for the future.
The creation of the operator register is in line with the principles of transport regulation in all modes and is a belated reaction to the failure of the Road Transport Quality System (RTQS), which was not effectively implemented in the 1980s.
It must also be noted that the current Tripartite Trade and Transport Facilitation Programme, covering all 26 countries in the region, includes the introduction of harmonised quality regulation. The system is based on the same principles as the RFS and includes operator registration, RCPs, and the development of monitoring systems that will hold the details of all operators in the region.
Registration in the Transport Registration and Information Platform and System will become the essential requirement for operators to cross borders, after the repeal of the current cross-border permit system.
Bilateral agreements will be replaced by the Multilateral Cross Border Road Transport Agreement between all countries in the region. The “levelling of the playing field” will facilitate cross-border trade as envisaged in the African Free Trade Agreement.
For road freight operators, the development of the operator registers and requirements for nominated and registered RCP holders will present the need for preparation of training and development plans.
It is essential that the road freight sector prepares to give effective support and direction to the reorganisation of the regulatory framework to ensure that the results do support efficiency and do not have negative impacts on commercial viability.