Good things come to those who wait

Good things come to those who wait

The Road Transport Management System has been a long time coming … But is this scheme the transport industry’s salvation or just another programme that drags on while promising the sun, moon and stars? JACO DE KLERK investigates.

For those in the know, the Road Transport Management System (RTMS) isn’t anything new, as it’s been in operation since 2003. But for industry newcomers it may be another “pie in the sky” acronym that holds as much weight as a Zimbabwean governmental promise … . However, it seems that it could be the “white knight” that will slay the transport industry’s woes.

RTMS is an industry-led, government-supported, voluntary, self-regulation scheme that encourages consignees and road transport operators to implement a set of standards that enhance compliance with the Road Traffic Regulations. It also contributes to preserving road infrastructure, improves road safety, ensures driver health and wellbeing and improves productivity.

All in all, it is proving to be an important tool to manage truck and bus fleets efficiently and cost-effectively – adding to the support it’s gaining. Adrian van Tonder, of Barloworld Logistics, and chairman of the RTMS national committee, adds: “RTMS is finding growing support among fleet operators and continues to show outstanding results. It also supports the Department of Transport’s National Road Freight Strategy as the ‘fourth pillar’ in the action plans.”

He says: “There are currently 2 674 trucks and 395 buses, from 68 company depots, carrying the RTMS accreditation logo. Support is continually growing, with a quantum leap in participation having occurred in the past 24 months”.

And the reasons for this “quantum leap” become all the more clear if one considers the ample benefits of being RTMS accredited. “We believe it is a good thing that people qualify for RTMS,” says Ray Karshagen, joint CEO of MAN Truck & Bus – in charge of the company’s bus activities. “As a matter of fact, one of the major banks, on the trucking side of the business, has said that if operators are RTMS accredited, they automatically qualify for a certain minimum facility.”

The reason being, the bank knows that with RTMS accreditation, systems are in place to control the operator’s business, the quality of the product and the quality of the management systems. “It is all about the quality and safety of the vehicles,” says Karshagen. “So we will be pushing hard to get it into the bus industry, because it means our new entrants will also have to stick to those quality systems.”

However, vehicle safety and financial benefits – both very important in their own right – aren’t the only positives that the scheme provides … The heavy vehicle transport industry’s overloading scourge is also addressed through the RTMS programme, with marked progress being made in all industries where it has been implemented.

The system also provides the opportunity to investigate the implementation of Performance Based Standards (PBS). This means that a vehicle can be designed outside the current legal limits while still complying with safety and other requirements, enabling it to carry heavier payloads. The Minister of Transport has given permission for the development of two such vehicles in the forestry industry that will be used on a trial basis.

Both Sappi and Mondi have invested in the development of two PBS vehicles, one being operated by Timber24 and the other by Super Group Transport. A second allowance has been successfully negotiated in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), resulting in RTMS-certified haulers not being stopped when weighbridges are full.

It is thus no wonder that RTMS is receiving increased focus and acceptance from various stakeholders in a wide range of South African industries. These include: sugar, coal, general freight, abnormal load carriers, car carriers, food and beverage transporters, containerised cargo and forestry and timber.

Van Tonder points out that the development of RTMS flowed over from initiatives by the timber industry in KZN at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The aim was to combat overloading, which causes damage to roads, and to cut the number of accidents involving trucks.

He adds: “The KZN project was known as the Load Accreditation Programme (LAP) and was also self-regulatory. This concept was expanded with the addition of driver health, compliance with road traffic regulations and all aspects of road safety to establish the basis for RTMS standards.”

This initiative led to numerous benefits – with additional ones highlighted in a number of case studies. For instance, the City of Cape Town Electricity Support Services, which is the first South African government fleet to achieve RTMS accreditation, has shown a dramatic decrease in road accidents – translating into safer roads.

Unitrans has reduced its number of accidents or incidents with damage of R30 000 and over from 20 in 2007 to four in 2010, with accident damage costs decreasing by 47 percent on the 2007 figure.

Car carrier, Motorvia, is another company that is benefiting from the self-regulation standards of RTMS. A huge reduction in speeding infringements, from 38 to five, has been achieved after the company increased testing of drivers for medical fitness and introduced a structured driver-training programme, which includes fatigue management.

Truck manufacturer Hino South Africa also got onto the RTMS bandwagon, giving its full support to assist with the rollout of the programme. Dr Casper Kruger, vice president of the company, says: “At Hino we see the RTMS as a very important initiative in creating responsible truck operators that show concern for the roads and environment, while focussing strongly on fuel saving.”

He points out that the company utilises its nationwide dealer network to promote the benefits of using the system. “We then encourage our dealers to keep up the momentum and follow-up with the transport operators that aren’t accredited to take up the challenge, and provide assistance in developing a strategy to meet all the requirements.”

Van Tonder adds: “It is very rewarding to see a project that you believe in, and actively support, bearing fruit and attracting more and more adherents.” The next steps are to get the final form of the RTMS regulations from the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), which should be in line with ISO 39001 – an international standard for road transport.

It is clear that the RTMS programme took some time to gain momentum, but now that it is moving, it promises to have great things in store.

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