Road freight sector faces ‘coordinated’ arson attacks

Road freight sector faces ‘coordinated’ arson attacks

July 10, 2023


South Africa’s logistics sector is facing “coordinated, ruthless attacks” by arsonists who have targeted the industry repeatedly over the past six years, says Road Freight Association CEO Gavin Kelly.

According to KZN police spokesperson Jay Naicker, six trucks were set alight on the N3 toll road at Van Reenen’s Pass at the weekend, while Mpumalanga spokesperson Selvy Mohlala confirmed that a further five trucks had been torched on the N4 near Waterval Boven during the early hours of Sunday morning.

Kelly, who was reacting to the targeting of trucks on the N3, said the incident could not be described “as anything else but a coordinated attack on the road freight sector”.

“Both the specific spot on the N3, as well as the timing, were chosen to cause the best outcome in terms of mayhem and disruption,” Kelly said.

He added that the scene that had played out on the N3 at Van Reenen’s Pass in the early hours of Saturday was “a ruthless attack on the road freight supply chain”. He said the effects – economic, business confidence, security, law and order and corridor movement – were far-reaching.

“While the immediate short-term losses will run into millions of rands (including cost of vehicles, cargo, personal effects, road damage, EMS response, delays in movement, and shipping penalties), the long-term impact will be felt in terms of increased security costs into the cost of logistics, higher insurance premiums, higher Sasria (South African Special Risk Insurance Association) cover premiums, higher toll fees, less freight movement through South Africa, closure of freight companies and loss of jobs,” Kelly said.

The road freight sector carries 80% of the goods that are moved in and around South Africa, as well as for countries that trade with international markets and use South African ports for import and export.

“Those who attack the road leg of logistics supply chains need to understand that the long-term effects will bring greater destruction to employment levels, and will result in further job losses, as businesses and supporting sectors shrink and trade moves away from South Africa,” Kelly said.

Depending on the category of vehicle, the type and value of cargo, and the specialised equipment required for the cargo, the cost of an attack could be R3 to R10-million, in his estimation. “A simple calculation of capital losses (assets and cargoes) of the six trucks destroyed to date amounts to anything from R18 to R60m.”

He added that the loss of income through businesses closing was far greater.

“If any of the trucks belonged to a small business – it will have lost its only truck, or trucks. This means loss of earnings/revenue for the business, loss of salaries paid to staff who would no longer have jobs (due to business shutdown), loss of revenue through the services and support the business uses, for example fuel, storage, maintenance, tolls, staff requirements and licensing.”

He warned that the heightened risk on the roads would lead to cargo owners choosing to move cargo through neighbouring countries.

“This has already been happening as South African ports become inefficient and the surrounding ports develop, improve and drive efficiencies up. South Africa’s ‘Gateway to Africa’ status has been lost and these attacks will further cement the move of transit freight from South Africa to neighbouring countries. Port revenues will drop, as will income through all support and related freight logistics users.”

He said the RFA was currently unaware of which companies were being targeted and attacked, and whether this was a random choice of trucks or a specific set of transporters.

“It is always those who are compliant and innocent of the complaints or issues raised by others that get caught up in these activities, and ultimately pay the price of closed businesses and severe cost increases to operations.”

Road Traffic Inspectorate spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said authorities had worked overnight to clear the N3 which had opened to traffic at 12.30 pm on Sunday.

“Police have also confirmed that they are investigating the perpetrators behind this barbaric act. We view it as barbaric because it is tantamount to economic sabotage,” Ncalane said.

  • More photos from this weekend’s arson attacks.

Road transport fire


Road transport fire2

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