ZaneSimpson.pngEscalating road tariffs, increasing driver fees, rising maintenance costs and erratic fuel prices, along with the amount of long distance freight compared with Europe, are set to cause problems for South Africa’s logistics sector, according to Stellenbosch University’s Logistics Barometer.

The current 781-million tons of freight moved is likely to triple over the next three decades, based on the current demand growth rate.

The well-being of the sector in South Africa is crucial, but it is running out of options, said Zane Simpson, from the university’s department of logistics.


“Imagine three times the number of trucks on our road network and the affect this would have on road infrastructure, traffic and delivery times,” said Simpson. “If we do not change, a system shock is inevitable.”

Consumer driven

Consumers are spoilt for choice and a change in their behaviour would alleviate the pressure on demand and benefit the industry, argued Simpson.

By demanding less variety, consumers will inevitably reduce the amount of transport needed, saving money, resulting in less road congestion, and ultimately benefiting our environment, the logistics industry too must be transparent about these benefits.

“There has to be a change in the way goods flow between points, whether it is driven by technology or by this reduction in the variety of brands and options on offer to consumers."

In cases where no alternative exists to long distances transportation, intermodal transport – moving containers using multiple transport modes – could have a dramatic effect, but requires significant investment into rail systems, the research concluded.

Other conveyance options

South Africa needs to consider all options to reduce its freight transport costs to manage a triple in demand over the next 30 years.

Simpson proposed all other conveyance options, even unconventional ones, be considered.

“3D printing items close to source, for example, rather than having to transport from afar would help to reduce transport demand and subsequent costs,” he said. "Seemingly ridiculous ideas even, such as building a canal between KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, long distance conveyor belts, or drones, need to become part of mainstream conversations.

Adapted from an article published in Supply Management