Road Freight Association CEO Gavin Kelly said taxpayers are footing the bill for South Africa’s damaged roads as they bear the costs for vehicle maintenance and Transnet bailouts.
Kelly told eNCA that looking after the roadworthiness of vehicles has become a difficult process for many South Africans, particularly for owners of freight or passenger businesses.
“You have to make sure that your vehicle is in pristine condition. Tires are one of those things, and as I’m sure you’ve all noticed, our roads are not in as good a condition as we’d like them to be,” he said.
“There are a lot more potholes appearing. Maintenance seems to have taken a backseat. That means far more damage to tires, suspensions, brakes, and even brake linings and couplings.”
For example, he said his organisation’s members have noted that their tyres’ lifespan is declining rapidly.
“Their lifespan, which might have been 80,000 to 100,000 km on a tire, is now drastically reduced depending on the types of potholes that are appearing and the types of roads and how they are beginning to disintegrate,” he said.
“That’s becoming a huge expense, and tires are expensive. The price of tires went up last year by a good 37%, which greatly impacts the cost per kilometre and, of course, the price you and I will pay.”
Aside from a lack of maintenance, another reason for the state of the country’s roads is Transnet’s collapse over the past few years.
Due to the state-owned enterprise’s dysfunction, many companies that need to export goods and transport their products to the country’s harbours have had to resort to trucking.
This has put a significant amount of trucks on the country’s roads – something they were not built to withstand, especially without proper maintenance.
However, fixing Transnet with another bailout is not the solution, Kelly said.
“It would be erroneous and naive of us to think if we gave Transnet R100 billion or R200 billion today, that there’d be less freight on the roads tomorrow,” he explained.
“Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. That’s going to take, depending on which corridor is being used and depending on the state of that railway, it’s going to take a couple of years.”
“So it’s not going to be an immediate or an overnight resolution of the amount of freight on the roads. That, again, is going to be between 2 to 3 to 10 to 15 years. Unfortunately, that’s a long-term project.”