The road freight industry is under huge pressure to function in a volatile environment which have seen trucks being burnt accross the country recently.

According to the Road Freight Association (RFA), the situation is so serious more than 30 trucks were torched across the country between Thursday and Sunday morning.

The hot spots include the Heidelberg area on the R103, the N3 highway, R23 and R505.

There were no reports in Alberton and Mooi River where trucks have been burnt before.

The attacks on trucks are allegedly linked to ongoing protests by local truck drivers opposed to the employment of immigrants in the trucking industry.

The association said the attacks were uncalled for, irrespective of the concerns of the various parties.

RFA chief executive Gavin Kelly said that they, together with the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI), have availed themselves on numerous occasions to solve the impasse.

“We call on the president to focus security resources at his disposal to counter, prevent and prosecute those who would destroy the country,” he said.

Kelly said the home affairs and labour departments needed to exercise their mandate to ensure that the laws of the country were respected.

“The police should gather intelligence, identify those who incite violence, investigate and prosecute those who do. This needs to end now,” he said.

Apart from the torching of the heavy-duty vehicles, the hijacking of trucks is also on the rise.

According to the SAPS second-quarter crime statistics for 2020/21 released recently, truck hijacking from July 1 to the end of September this year have increased by 31.7%.

During that period, there were 411 incidents of truck hijacking reported across the country, with an increase of 99 cases compared with the same period last year.

Gauteng was the leading province, with 248 reported cases followed by the Western Cape with 48, Eastern Cape 40 and KwaZulu-Natal with 19 cases.

At the release of the crime statistics, Police Minister Bheki Cele said that truck hijackers were using sophisticated technology to carry out the crimes.

He added police had recently made a breakthrough in the investigation into the hijackings.

Kelly described the numbers as being of concern, saying that for the umpteenth time, the road freight companies had found themselves being attacked.

“This has affected insurance premiums as companies will now have to pay more for insurance,” he said, adding they were compelled to invest more in their security systems.

He said truck drivers were now refusing to operate in hot spot areas because they also feared for their lives.

“At the end of the day, truck owners are paying more and facing increasing costs every day.

“The truck industry is one of the essential industries when it comes to the growth of the economy. The police need to assist to ensure the safety of the industry,” added Kelly.

Director and chief economist of Efficient Group, Dawie Roodt, said a lot of the freight shouldn’t be on the road, as railway was a better alternative.

However, he said due to the poor management of the railway system, people were making use of the road.

“The economy is in very deep depression and you are seeing a huge rise in unemployment and poverty. People are now getting desperate and the reality is people are hungry which is why such incidents are increasing,” explained Roodt.

He said urgent interventions were required because the economy would suffer if goods didn’t reach their intended delivery destinations. “If there’s no guarantee for businesses that everything sent from point A will arrive at point B, that will chase away investors. Our image is being tarnished by this.

“What will happen going forward is that businesses will be left with no choice but to increase transportation costs,” added Roodt.

Managing director of MasterDrive Eugene Herbert said all drivers needed to increase their awareness levels.

“Much loss and trauma could be avoided if we pay attention to the suspicious people and vehicles around us.”

He added motorists also needed to learn what to do in a hijacking.

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