As the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic begins breaking across South Africa, it is critical that the freight and logistics sector be kept functioning safely and effectively, as it is the very lifeblood of the country’s economy.
This is the message from Pierre Bruwer, MD of vehicle tracking and fleet intelligence company Netstar, a subsidiary of Altron.
Bruwer has pointed out that even in the depths of the Level-5 lockdown in 2020, the freight and logistics industry kept society supplied with the essential goods, medicines and healthcare products required to stay functioning.
“The road-freight industry plays a massive role in supporting the supply chains that make modern life possible – whether by supplying wholesalers and bricks-and-mortar retailers, or by supporting e-commerce and online shopping,” he said.
Bruwer said Covid safety regulations were most effective when they protected lives, while still allowing for the safe, free flow of goods along the country’s roads.
“It’s critical that this vital industry be allowed to continue operating with as little interruption as possible,” he said. “Their contribution is vital – not just economically, but in the sense that road-freight transport helps to keep us all alive!”
Bruwer said that the movements of large commercial fleets were already back to pre-Covid levels. However, he said looking at a large dataset of tracked vehicles over the past three years (pre-Covid, during Covid and recent), showed some interesting trip-behaviour differences.
Traffic in South African metros remains on average 20% below 2019 levels. While the period since lockdown level 1 has seen gradual, month-on-month increases, most movement still occurs mid-week, with little weekend congestion. This shows that people are still cautious and are staying close to home over weekends. Night and early-morning movement also remains low, with hourly traffic peaks still well below 2019 levels.
Bruwer appealed to all road users to be more understanding about heavy-load freight hauliers and the pressures that long-distance truck drivers operated under.
“It can be inconvenient sharing roads with large, multi-axle vehicles, but each time you see a truck on the road it is a good sign,” he said. “It may slow you down for a little while, but the freight industry moves the economy forward, and truck drivers make huge sacrifices to keep us supplied.”
Netstar commercial fleet customers continue to face the threat of crime. On a national level, truck hijackings rose by 24,6% year-on-year in 2021.
“The financial desperation brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic has been significant, and our data reflects that,” said Bruwer. “On the roads, this is placing huge pressure on fleet operators and truck drivers.”
Bruwer said Netstar was committed to supporting its fleet customers through its telematics and smart IoT technology.
“Our vehicle-tracking technology provides fleet-intelligence tools that let customers track their fleets in real time, to set security alerts, and to plot the safest, most efficient and cost-effective routes,” he said. “We support the trucking industry and we encourage all stakeholders in the road-freight industry to do the same. That means all of us.”
Bruwer called on all South Africans to support truckers and road-freight operators – on the roads and in the policy space. He said it was critical for the country to institute Covid-19 regulations – and to allow the wheels of the economy to keep turning.
“Every truck that safely brings products to market is supporting our economy and helping our recovery,” concluded Bruwer.