Transnet has implemented a contingency plan to deal with the export coal truck backlog that has led to massive congestion on the N2 over the past week.
This comes after videos of the long truck queues were shared widely on social media last week.
A spokesperson for Transnet said in response to Freight News questions that the congestion had been caused as a result of a decision to reduce trucking inflows to the port during the festive season.
“The Port of Richards Bay recently experienced another spike in high truck traffic volumes, which resulted in a backlog of trucks which awaited to be serviced at the port. The backlog was due to Transnet and the City of Umhlathuze making the decision to minimise the trucking operation during the festive season to accommodate the high volume of tourists, visitors and holiday activities that were held during the festive period,” the spokesperson said.
Transnet added that during the festive period only planned trucks had been allowed to travel to the Port of Richards Bay. The embargo was communicated to the customers to stop loading from December 15, 2022, to January 5.
“This embargo caused a traffic system imbalance when trucking operations resumed during the first week of January, as all transporters and miners were still at the loading stage, waiting to offload cargo in the port,” he said.
Transnet added that it had implemented a colour-coding truck calling process to combat congestion in and around the port.
“Trucks are dispatched with a sticker on a window screen to identify which area/vessel they are destined to. There are also additional staging areas that have been operationalised inside the terminals. The port has also beefed up offloading capacity by deploying additional resources to avoid any further congestion,” he said.
Staff in the staging areas are in constant communication with each truck’s supervisor for guidance on accurate destination via a two-way radio.
“There is also constant negotiation with customers to deploy marshals that will assist in directing the traffic. In the cases where a truck arrives in Richards Bay without a permit, they are reported to the road traffic department and a fine is issued,” he said.
A multi-stakeholder task team, comprising Transnet, the City of Umhlathuze, and the KZN Dept of Transport (RTI), has been formed as a medium-term solution to tackle the problem.
“Sanral, key customers, cargo owners, and trucking companies will meet on a biweekly basis. The committee will look at a synergetic system that ensures that there is alignment between all affected stakeholders,” he said.
An additional team, specifically tasked with focusing on operational output to streamline the movement and offloading of trucks, has also been established.
“With this strategy taking effect, Transnet is urging members of the public to be patient as the alleviation of truck congestion occasionally experienced remains unachievable without the assistance and support of the public,” he said.