'Impounding trucks will hurt SA'

2009-12-16 00:00

THE Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) has condemned the decision taken by the KwaZulu-Natal Transport Department to impound all truck trailers carrying international “high cube” containers as “hasty and [one which] will have grave consequences for the South African business community”.

Since the beginning of November, the province’s traffic officials have been impounding the large trailers as they are in violation of the province’s regulations. These containers travel at heights of between 4,5 m and 4,6 m — exceeding the departmental limit of 4,3 m.

Andrew Layman, CEO of the PCB, described the decision as hasty and said it “would deal a severe blow to a country that is still taking its first step out of the recession”.

He said: “… the costs to importers will be prohibitive as they will have to either pay very high demurrage costs and have their deliveries delayed until this matter is resolved, or arrange for their goods to be unloaded from the unacceptable containers and re-loaded into those that may be transported.”

Spokesmann for the Transport Department Bhekisisa Mncube said the trucking industry knows the law and all they need to do is to follow it.

“Our RTI officials on the street will continue to apply the law as it should be applied. And those who threaten to take legal action against the department should do so because we are applying the law, and we will not be dictated to by a particular industry.”

Sake24.com reported yesterday that half of all containers being transported locally fall within the high cube category.

“By Thursday the provincial department of Transport had impounded more than 60 of these containers. As a result, the haulier companies are now reluctant to transport them.

The dilemma is that South Africa does not have enough trucks that are low enough to carry these containers within the legal limitation,” reported the website.

According to a letter sent on December 1 by Kevin Martin, deputy chairman of the South African Association of Freight Forwarders’ KwaZulu-Natal Harbour Carriers Division, to the Transport Minister, if 50% of all containers were suddenly stranded this would constitute a “financial disaster of biblical proportions” for South Africa.

The report said at a meeting on Friday between the Road Freight Association and the Transport Department, an agreement was reached that the impounding of vehicles transporting these high containers would be suspended as soon as possible, and that any of the vehicles still impounded would immediately be released.

“According to the national department, no instructions to lift the moratorium on the banning of high-cube containers have been given to either the KwaZulu-Natal or any other provincial department.

“It appears, however, that the national and the provincial departments are not in communication, as the decisions have not been conveyed to the provincial department.

“The Road Freight Association communicated the meeting’s decisions in writing to the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport, but the provincial department is still refusing to allow the containers to be transported.

“The department claims that the order to implement the legislation came from the national department; it can therefore do nothing before the national department advises it to the contrary.”

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