by Gregory Simpson

Editor's Letter

Road freight industry at crossroads

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Welcome to another edition of Road Ahead magazine. We continue to grapple with challenging times in the road freight industry, an economic downturn plaguing many sectors and brutal attacks on vehicles and foreign drivers.

The attacks on foreign drivers in South Africa (SA) have once again put a spotlight on the disgruntled sections of the workforce’s inability to communicate effectively, in a non-violent manner. Brutality appears to be the only language of the day, with reportedly over 200 foreign drivers being killed in petrol bombing attacks over the last 16 months.

Police investigations appear to be ineffective in curbing this alarming trend, and slow in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

The problem and the solution are simple. Too many South Africans have a sense of job entitlement, which is fostered by populist politicians and their empty promises. Instead of understanding that you need to work harder to protect your job in a competitive environment, some local drivers and associations reportedly prefer to resort to mafia style violence to eliminate the competition.

The main reason companies employ foreign nationals is that they often work harder, and are not tied down by over-zealous unions. You could argue that companies can pay them less too, and in the case of illegal immigrants, are not covered by employment laws.

By disrupting the important N3 supply chain; these thugs are ultimately shrinking the employment pool for everybody. I’ve never been able to understand the thought process behind using violence as an economic negotiating tool, especially as SA’s economy teeters on the brink of wholesale disaster, held together by the thread of integrity that our president offers to the international community.

On the positive side, it was heartening to see medium duty truck sales improve over the second quarter of the year, while passenger car and heavy duty truck sales took a hiding.

With the spate of truck torching it is little wonder that companies are putting the brakes on new truck orders, with a wait and see approach, for now. It was hoped that the peaceful elections in May would bring a positive economic upswing, but sadly, political horseplay always slows the beat of business, which is bad for everybody.

Not to mention the damage that xenophobic attacks are having on our reputation north of border, and our ability to remain a premier gateway. If SA continues to be a difficult place to do import/export business, the main ports of Namibia and Mozambique will gladly take the customers away.

It is time that we all worked together and don’t re-make many of the mistakes of the past. Give the economy some breathing room to flourish. Sadly, too many leaders put their own personal gain ahead of sustainability and true nation building.

Gregory Simpson

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