Better infrastructure and the fate of fleets
* Government’s recent pledge to begin the procurement of services in building and upgrading road infrastructure will bring some hope to businesses in the transport and construction industries.
* Webfleet Solutions hopes that by expanding and improving public facilities, the easing of congestion will slow degradation and make them safer for road users.
* The South African National Road Agency (Sanral) announced it has awarded four long-overdue major construction tenders for projects on the new N2 Wild Coast highway in the Eastern Cape and the N11 in KwaZulu-Natal.
Government’s most recent pledges to begin the procurement of services in extensive new build and upgrade of road infrastructure offers a glimmer of hope to businesses in the transport and construction industries. Justin Manson, Sales Director of Webfleet, Bridgestone’s mobility company, hopes that by expanding and improving public facilities, the easing of congestion will slow their general degradation and make them safer for road users while feeding the economy. Part of the reality with South Africa’s failing electricity and water systems is that the facilities in place were not originally designed to serve as large a population as today, which relies on them to live. The roads bear an even greater burden due to the disrupted rail network provider currently working to rescue routes and refurbish equipment. This should make these revamped rail routes more relevant to modern mining, industrial and commercial operations that could benefit from its potential cost-effectiveness.
Over the coming three years, according to the Finance Ministry’s annual budget published in February, government will be spending an estimated R903 billion on hard infrastructure. Most of this will be focused on strategic transport and logistics, and water and sanitation.
Earlier in February, the South African National Road Agency (Sanral) announced it had awarded four long-overdue major construction tenders for projects on the new N2 Wild Coast highway in the Eastern Cape and the N11 in KwaZulu-Natal earlier this year. Politics aside, these should be welcomed as these provinces have each suffered their own challenges related to their roads and traffic.
Now, stepping into a new economic era driven by knowledge, creativity and design, industrially manufactured and locally designed goods – from art works to hi-tech equipment for a variety of sectors – will grow in scale as the South African resources sector undergoes its own transformation, with reserves remaining an unknown projection.
Sanral’s investment creates much needed capacity in the country’s major coastal economies, boosting the construction industry while opening a key artery of trade. It forms part of a broader government programme mandated to uplift economic growth of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
The roads agency states: “The much shorter and quicker N2 route will dramatically reduce traffic carbon emissions, travel time and costs. The 1.5-to-3-hour reduction in travel time for light-to-heavy vehicles using the current N2 and R61 routes between KZN and EC will result in a projected time cost saving to the economy of R1.5 billion per annum. The new route will also open access to the unique, but under-developed, Pondoland region, boosting regional and local socio-economic development, particularly in tourism and agriculture.”
The 410km N2 Wild Coast highway, running between the N2 Gonubie Interchange and the Mtamvuna River bridge, is a key step in government’s Strategic Infrastructure Projects SIP-3, South-Eastern Node and Corridor Development.
While new roads are very well desired, refurbishment of existing infrastructure is also certainly needed and will drastically improve the safety of passing motorists, something needs to clarify along with the announcement of new projects.
In the recently published maiden Webfleet Road Safety Report, where we surveyed a large sample of fleet operators, it emerged that 7% of accidents are caused by poor road conditions. If we can bring this down 2%-3%, we would save thousands of lives each year.
Government, supported by the private sector and local communities, must also urgently repair the existing rail infrastructure. Abandoned stations, overgrown gantries and rusted tracks could all be brought back to life to further ease congestion and begin the drastic improvement in road surface quality across the nation.
Fleet owners should be preparing for a massive evolution in South African logistics. They will have to contend with more customers upholding stricter contractual conditions, like large multinationals. Lack of insurance or vehicle telematics, for instance, will be a non-starter. Managers and those utilising their service will want to keep an eye on the live on-board diagnostics data, which will be relayed back to central command for directors and customers to see the entire operation in detail, making for quicker and better decisions on live route planning, vehicle health and driver well-being.
The job now, during the construction of this new infrastructure, is to collect as much data as we can throughout the development, ensuring that live traffic information is captured and fed back to road users in as close to real-time as possible.
Eventually, through technological refinement, devices fitted to monitor vehicle statistics will become so sensitive, they will pick up if a vehicle has driven through a pothole.
If this can be mapped out, it could expedite local government’s maintenance schedule to further improve urban roads, the very heartbeat of the economy.
Webfleet is Bridgestone’s globally trusted fleet management solution. Over 60,000 businesses across the world use it to improve fleet efficiency, support drivers, boost safety, stay complaint and work more sustainably. For more than 20 years it has been empowering businesses with data-driven insights that help them optimise their operations.
Webfleet embraces Bridgestone Mobility Solutions’ mission to move the world towards a sustainable future with data-driven mobility solutions and contributes towards the delivery of The Bridgestone E8 Commitment. This broad, global corporate commitment clearly defines the value Bridgestone is promising to deliver to society, customers and future generations in eight focus areas: Energy, Ecology, Efficiency, Extension, Economy, Emotion, Ease and Empowerment. These provide a compass to guide strategic priorities, decision making and actions throughout every area of the business.