Are we ever going to get it right?
A new minister of transport is sure to lead to more wasted time and no implementation of policy.
There’s no denying that the transport sector in South Africa is diverse. But really, how many injuries and lost lives are there on an annual basis in the competing areas of rail, maritime and aviation in South Africa? Any accident that occurs outside of road transport gets the nine-yard treatment – investigations and boards of inquiry. Blame is apportioned and action taken.
But, a road crash? There must be at least five dead, or it is simply ignored and the report is filed along with a million others in some dusty storeroom. Literally. And that’s the real issue.
And now with the latest cabinet reshuffle we have a new minister of transport – the third in as many years.
Not that the team has changed, mind. Based on past experience, every time there is a new “broom” it takes at least six months for the new incumbent to get up to speed. But it is half a year wasted while the department waits on new direction. What makes matters worse though is that newly appointed politicians very seldom carry through what their predecessors
So it’s back to the drawing board every time. And in the meantime, there are a number of issues that need immediate attention.
The Road Transport Management Corporation (RTMC), for one, is a major stumbling block in improving the safety record of our country. That is not the only problem, but at the moment it is the biggest. The agency, which has been entrusted to make our roads safe, has failed spectacularly through its inefficiencies and incompetence. The Decade of Action for Road Safety strategy – not yet implemented years after it began – followed by the loss of crash data being prime examples.
Not to mention a plethora of new amendments still outstanding from last year – including the regulations for the provisional driver licence and professional driver hours. These are potential life-saving changes to the law.
Just like the Gauteng e-toll issue, the introduction of periodic vehicle testing for vehicles older than 10 years will make a lot of people very unhappy. Unhappy people don’t always vote the “right” way.
Government understands this. So then, the cost of road crashes continues to increase every year – currently at around R160 billion – and our risk increases every time we venture onto the roads. Very close to two million vehicles are damaged in road crashes every year.
What is clear however is that government is getting it more wrong than right. Some of its agencies are investing in safety. Not much, but where they can, they do.
And to the hauliers and transporters who are investing in safety – a huge thank you. Please do more when and where you can.
New plans. No policy. And that’s exactly why we will never get it right.
SKID MARKS is a regular column in which Gary Ronald presents his personal and sometimes jaundiced view on transport, safety and mobility. Ronald has a wealth of experience in these fields and has presented numerous papers both locally and internationally. FOCUS appreciates his witty, topical and sometimes irreverent stance on the industry. If you’d like to respond to whatever punches he throws, visit www.focusontransport.co.za