Closure of roads at oPhongolo to heavy freight vehicles
Gavin Kelly – Chief Executive Officer: The Road Freight Association

According to media reports, the local community has blockaded roads and is preventing heavy freight vehicles from moving in the area of oPhongolo, KwaZulu-Natal. This follows on the heels of a meeting between the oPhongolo Mayor, during which the community demanded close monitoring of trucks by the municipality to prevent a recurrence of the terrible incident last year which cost the country many young lives.

Evidently the Mayor, Bheki Thwala, stated that after the horrific incident, authorities promised they would monitor trucks for speeding and roadworthiness. He said that was done and everything was running smoothly, but the monitoring suddenly stopped.

The first question that arises is: which authorities is he referring to (if not the local municipal traffic force itself), and the second is: why did the authority stop the activity? Additionally: whilst the authorities were monitoring, was there a change in the behaviour of the targeted road freight operators, and when the authorities withdrew – did behaviour revert back to what it was before the authorities were active?

The Road Freight Association (RFA) has repeatedly called on the authorities (at various levels in government) to address the issue of non-compliant operators (transporters), as well as to deal with any offences that are committed - especially where such offences may be repeatedly committed and are the root cause for incidents that occur.

It surely is logical that, given the huge increase in coal transport by road through the area to Richards Bay, that the Provincial traffic authority would allocate more resources to the routes that are now carrying far more vehicles.

Transporters are now faced with situations where routes are barred by communities (who in themselves are acting illegally / unlawfully) and those transporters who played no part in the recent tragedy. Some, even having contributed freely to the communities in their hour of devastation and sorrow, are now tarred with the same brush and are prevented from operating their compliant, legal and safe businesses.

This is neither fair, nor in any way legal.

There are very clear and focused legal requirements and parametres for operating road freight vehicles on public roads. The regulations contained in legislation need to be consistently and firmly applied, monitored and those operators (transporters) that ignore these requirements must be dealt with. Decisively. The law-abiding operators must be allowed to continue their operations without hindrance from parties and groupings who have no role in the control and monitoring of road freight traffic matters.

“The closure of the road is a move by the community to call all relevant stakeholders to come and engage [with] them regarding the matter,” said Thwala. Hopefully this will include the Provincial traffic authority which needs to restore the control of road traffic matters back to the mandated authorities and to ensure that non-compliant road users are dealt with - including those who block the free flow of traffic.

Thwala said he met the community and also spoke with truck authorities about the road closure. It would be interesting to note to which truck authorities the Mayor had spoken in an effort to resolve this – unless he is referring to the operators that run coal vehicles through the oPongolo area.