South Africa’s Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga, has finally issued a Government Gazette notice calling on the country's provincial traffic authorities not to prosecute hauliers carrying containers over the maximum height of 4.3 metres.
The chief executive officer of the Road Freight Association (RFA), Gavin Kelly, said of the latest development about the contentious high-cube container issue: "The process of research is now underway, presumably to ascertain how many containers are moved daily and what sort of incidents there have been – based on excess height only."
The Gazette with the notice was signed by Chikunga on 24 March and published on the 31st.
It is therefore already in effect, according to the RFA.
The Department of Transport (DoT) had repeatedly been called upon to address a legislative gap that existed, putting road freight practitioners in a difficult position because regulation 224(b) was in effect, which determined the maximum height.
A moratorium was requested on any legal action against transporters until this regulation was suspended, repealed, or changed in the Government Gazette.
This made it illegal to transport ISO containers at a laden height exceeding 4,3m.
This development follows a hiatus of 18 months for a meeting between the DoT, Transnet Freight Rail (TFR), and the RFA task team established specifically to look into formalising the high-cube issue.
During the period of uncertainty, the road freight industry cautioned against flouting international trends and cited possible insurance problems, to name a few objections.
The last meeting between the parties to clear the way was in October 2021.
Initial deadlocking left transporters in a difficult position.
Problems began when the DoT expressed concern about the height of the containers.
It feared that the higher center of gravity of 150mm could affect load stability.
Sixteen months ago, the DoT came up with the idea that high cube containers should be part of the department's drive to move goods from road to rail.
This idea did not consider the first- and last-mile transport dynamics that still require the movement of containers on a public road.
So, on 18 October 2021, the last meeting was convened, and TFR was present.
The road freight industry suspected the stalling by government entities was an effort to drive container traffic from road to rail.
This has been discounted as Transnet conceded it does not have the capacity to deal with high cube containers on rail and won't have capacity for the foreseeable future.
Ninety per cent of all containers used to move freight worldwide are ISO-standardised cubes.
But in South Africa it became an offence to load above 4.3 meters, and the "consignors/consignees" contravened regulations.
Other risks include possible insurance repudiation in the event of an accident involving the transport of the high-cube containers.