A glimpse of what the future holds for SA transport

A glimpse of what the future holds for SA transport

The Road Freight Association (RFA) Operations Conference took place at Futuroad 2017. It offered delegates insight into improving transport operations and a glimpse into the future of the South African transport industry. MARISKA MORRIS reports

Steven Cornelius, head of special risks at Indwe Risk Services, was the first speaker at the RFA Operations Conference, which was held on September 28. He discussed the RFA Insurance scheme available to members and highlighted ways companies could save on insurance costs.

He advised transport companies to look at alternative ways of structuring their insurance packages and noted that companies have a right to approach insurance brokers about discounts on insurance for any risk management solutions implemented by the business.

Eugene van Niekerk, GM of product solutions at Ctrack, built on this idea. He discussed technology currently available to assist companies in improving driving practices. He noted: “Driver behaviour has the biggest impact on a truck and company’s performance.” Van Niekerk used the 2017 FOCUS Truck Test as an example.

Even if a truck has the most advanced technology, a driver who speeds or breaks harshly will cause unnecessary fuel consumption. Technology such as dashboard cameras (facing the road and driver) as well as on-board navigation could assist fleet managers to identify risky driver behaviour.

The data gathered from this technology can assist companies in training drivers. Van Niekerk highlighted the benefits of improved driver behaviour with a case study.

A company with more than 250 vehicles focused on reducing speeding among its drivers and debriefed them regularly. In the second quarter of 2016, the company had reduced speeding by 48 percent and achieved fuel savings of 1,89 percent. The company also reduced its CO2 emissions by two tonnes.

While Van Niekerk argued that lowering fuel consumption is the only way to reduce CO2 emissions, Andre Jacobs from Opti-diesel introduced additive technology that could help companies reduce fuel consumption.

Opti-diesel technology was introduced in South Africa in 2016. It is added to a vehicle’s diesel and is currently used by mines. “Opti-diesel changes the chemical composition of the fuel by forcing the carbon to accept more oxygen,” Jacobs explained.

A dosing tank with a flow meter is installed at the refuelling station. The flow meter uses the temperature of the diesel to calculate the amount of opti-diesel that needs to be added. Jacobs commented: “About half a drop (25 microlitres) of opti-diesel is needed per litre of fuel.”

The use of opti-diesel at the mines has resulted in a 12-percent fuel saving and 50-percent reduction of harmful emissions. While this product could be immensely beneficial to the transport industry, it has not been made widely available.

Jacobs noted that the opti-diesel doesn’t have the same fuel-saving effect when it is added manually. Companies with central refuelling stations where dosing tanks can be installed, and that use around 200 000 litres of fuel per month, will reap the most benefit.

“If a driver refuels at a petrol station that doesn’t have opti-diesel, it counteracts the benefit of the opti-diesel,” Jacobs said. It is also very expensive to run a quarterly emissions report during which the number of gasses released through the exhaust is calculated to determine the effectiveness of the truck’s combustion. One report will cost a company between R1 000 to R2 000 per vehicle.

This doesn’t mean that South Africa is not moving towards alternative fuel. The breakfast conference ended with a panel discussion on whether the South African transport industry will focus more on sustainability or alternative fuels over the next five years.

Technical executive at Unitrans, Bruce Fraser, noted: “Technology is moving so fast. With more investment in technology, the older trucks are falling behind. South Africa may move towards to cleaner fuel faster than we think. It comes down to economics. If it makes sense to run an environmentally friendly vehicle, we will.”

Blake Ferguson, from Barloworld Logistics, disagreed with Fraser. According to Ferguson, reducing carbon emissions is not a top priority for the South African transport industry at the moment. He said: “It will be part of the transport industry’s mission, but it will not be as prevalent as it is in Europe.” 

Instead, he argued that the transport industry will continue to reduce its fuel consumption by reducing the estimated 350 000 trucks currently on the road through smart trucks and the performance-based standards (PBS) project.

The panel was also asked about the challenge of preventing overloading. Gavin Kelly, RFA technical and operations manager and chairperson of the panel discussion, said: “About 95 percent of overloads are axle overloads.” The panel also highlighted this challenge.

Fraser pointed out that it is particularly challenging to prevent axle overloads when transporting liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). “We load very close to the limit. It sloshes and surges around. The law is written in such a way that the weighing takes place instantaneously. If the LPG had time to settle, we would not have an axle overload,” he said.

Greg Vaughan, national marketing executive of Bakers Transport, noted that the weighbridges currently used in South Africa were lacking. “The difficult discussion we should have is who will build weighbridges that can accurately weigh axle weight,” he pointed out. According to Vaughan, Bakers Transport is investigating implementing axle weighbridges.

While accurate axle weighbridges and the mass use of  products like opti-diesel still need to be realised, the RFA conference gave delegates good insight into what the future of road transport in South Africa might look like.

In the meantime, transport companies could focus on reducing costs by improving driver behaviour and considering alternative structuring of insurance policies. 

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FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publication in southern Africa.
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