Reliable and efficient transport is critical for South Africa to grow its economy. Irrespective if people or freight are being moved, it has to be conducted in a safe and cost effective manner.
The 35th annual Southern African Transport Conference attracted key players from across the transport spectrum dealing with road, rail and air operations. Here delegates discussed ideas and shared views pertinent to the transport sector that will enable it to continue playing a key role in the country’s economic growth.
Ms Malijeng Ngqaleni, deputy director-general: Intergovernmental Relations, speaking on the first day of the conference says, “The main point is to remember that public transport is essential to creating and growing competitive economies. This in turn is critical for poverty alleviation and also for environmental issues in reducing both carbon emissions and fuel consumption.”
She outlines how the government can improve the role of public transport. “Firstly,” she says, “is to rethink how money is spent in designing infrastructure. Because of the important role that public transport plays, different government departments need to work together in aligning and integrating plans and operations.
“Well planned transport systems that guides all public transport investments, need to be implemented for the government to achieve a better transport system with the limited financial resources at hand. It should ultimately lead to an intermodal and integrated transport system aligning all the different modes of public transport in the country. This is the key for improving the passenger experience.”
Another important topic highlighted was the cost of upgrading, maintaining and rehabilitating road infrastructure. Professor Gerrit Jordaan, University of Pretoria and Tshepega Engineering, says limited funds makes it impossible for sub-Saharan Africa to become competitive in the world market. Without new road technology being adopted he stated this region would not become competitive on the world market.
“A pilot project by the Gauteng Province Department of Roads and Transport,” he says could pave the way for the future. “A new nano-technology is being implemented which will dramatically improve service delivery on roads at an affordable cost.
“This technology may hold the key to sub-Saharan Africa becoming competitive in the world market by providing access to markets at an affordable cost,” explains Jordaan.
A decent road infrastructure can also have the potential of reducing poverty levels in rural communities. International guest speaker professor Hernan de Solminihac Tampier outlined how Chile has achieved this over the past twenty years. Between 2010 and 2011 he was the Minister of Public Works and from 2011 to 2014 the Minister of Mining in Chile.
Rural communities are benefitting and one example cited by Tampier is school transport, which is now a reality. In some communities, he says, children had to walk for up four hours a day going to school and back. Now school buses are able to pick up the children and have them at school within 15 minutes.
The future of the truck industry as we know it is changing. Improvements in safety, fuel efficiency and extra payloads are now possible for truck owners operating within the realms of the law.
The Performance Based Standards (PBS) scheme is paving the way for improving heavy vehicle standards and regulations. In South Africa this concept, as a pilot project, has been in operation since 2007. There are currently 165 PBS vehicles being operated within the timber, mining, fuel, cattle and beer industries.
The concept for PBS vehicle is operating very well in Australia, the scheme South Africa is following in establishing it here. PBS provides the framework for enabling trucks to move higher masses.
Laszlo Bruzsa from the national heavy vehicle regulator (NHVR) from Australia discussed the success of PBS operations in that country. The NHVR is the dedicated regulator responsible for all vehicles over 4,500 tonnes and also certifies PBS vehicles ensuring compliance to the countries legislation.
PBS aims to maximise the safe use of higher productivity vehicles by matching the right vehicles to the right roads. PBS vehicles in both South Africa and Australia are only allowed to operate on predetermined routes. This is because of the size of the vehicles. Operators along with the authorities have to take into account the current road infrastructure along the routes because of the bigger sizes of the PBS vehicles.
“Currently in Australia, PBS vehicles make up to 25% of total truck sales as operators realise the advantages of operating these vehicles,” says Bruzsa. The benefits for both operators and the country, according to Bruzsa, is that there is an overall reduction in truck movements of 22% and it reduces the amount of trucks on the road by 40%. This in turn he says has huge fuel savings resulting in operators emitting with lower carbon emissions. PBS vehicles in Australia allow operators to carry between an extra 20 to 30% payload.
“This year’s conference was a big success and behalf of the Organising Committee, I would like to thank all the delegates, participants, presenters and everyone involved for sharing the knowledge and the experience. The outcome of the conference will be in a form of action plans which will be delivered to the Patron of the conference, Hon. Minister Elizabeth Dipuo Peters. Emanating from the action plans will be topics that will be researched and presented at next year’s conference,” concluded Professor James Maina, Chairman of SATC Organising Committee.