The Road Freight Association (RFA) is concerned about aspects of the controlled relaxing of the lockdown, with specific regard to the opening of road freight operations and logistics after 1 May 2020, as presented at the Government’s media briefing on 25 April 2020.
We urge that Government opens the road freight transport and logistics industry immediately and that transporters be allowed to operate. Under the current lockdown, we have close to five weeks of practical demonstration as to how the industry has operated in a controlled environment, with all the health protocols required.
The RFA is committed to participating in the gradual unlocking of the country from the COVID-19 lock down in the stages presented. RFA Members bind themselves to strict requirements relating to quality control, best practice principles, legislative compliance and have a proven track record of discipline and adherence to policy.
The Association developed a Road Freight Industry Protocol for COVID-19 which is currently use by transporters moving essential goods. This has proven to be highly effective.
The following aspects are of grave concern and need to be clearly understood by the authorities:
1 Various levels of lockdown can be instituted by various authorities: the reality that a national / provincial / Metro / local level will be different to others is ludicrous and will create untold confusion and frustration. We have already experienced this in the past four weeks, where a single level was implemented and various authorities both interpreted this differently and came up with their own requirements.
2 The “threat” that there can be escalations to higher levels of lockdown – seemingly at the whim of the various authorities that will now be able to implement their own levels of lockdown. We need clarity on how is this possible – and what process will be in place to dispute this – apart from the legal route.
3 The integrated and symbiotic relationship within the transport and logistics industry and all its sub-sectors needs to be fully understood: transport needs to operate fully – if this does not happen, the economy will fall into an abyss from which we will not easily recover. We already have reports of companies closing.
4 International and regional trade links: We stand the chance of losing out on international trade links (air and sea freighters) due to the closure of freight logistics and, when that happens, we will lose our “gateway” status to Africa, as the other countries on the western and eastern sides of Africa will take this up. We will NEVER get it back.
The RFA proposes that, from 1 May 2020, freight operations and logistics companies become fully operational, whilst:
- strictly adhering to the COVID-19 best practice safety requirements,
- ensuring that all employees are identifiable by official company documentation,
- ensuring proper documentation to show full details of consignment ownership, contents and destination,
- ensuring that the nature of operations do not have a high social contact risk,
- ensuring a strict safety protocol with consignment management,
- ensuring social distancing through screening and minimal contact with the public,
- implementing consignee and consignor screening and safety management,
- ensuring that the crossing of provincial borders is subject to safety protocol management of consignments from origin to destination,
- ensuring that vehicles carry a register of employees required on vehicles with the prescribed permits,
- ensuring all employees wear applicable PPE to combat contamination as per protocol,
- ensuring that social distancing is implemented in all operations,
- informing clients, consignees and consignors of all safety protocols regarding operations to eliminate unnecessary contact, and
- ensuring vehicles are sanitised regularly.
The road freight industry keeps the wheels of the economy turning. We urge Government to take note of our concerns and enable the industry to play its vital role in unlocking much-needed economic activity amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.