Monday, January 24, 2022

BOTRA tackles trucking challenges head-on to foster growth

While it is faced with a myriad of challenges, the newly formed Botswana Truckers Association (BOTRA) is confident that Botswana’s trucking industry is poised for breakthrough if everything goes according to plan. Alvin Yalala, Secretary General of BOTRA, revealed in an interview that the biggest problem facing the truckers association at the moment is lack of funding.

“We have other serious challenges that require support from government since they involve trade relations with neighboring countries. We will soon hold tripartite negotiations with government on the matter,” he said.

He added that Botswana’s geographic location in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) puts it in good stead to reap immense benefit from the transport industry.

“We are poised for a breakthrough. Sadly, the late registration of the Association has greatly disadvantaged us,” he said.

He said close observation of the trucks that do business on the highway between Francistown and Kasane would immediately reveal that there is a big problem in the local trucking industry as trucks that transport goods to the Kazungula border are mostly from Zambia, Zimbabwe and Democratic Republic of Congo while those that ply the Trans Kgalagadi highway are battered trucks bearing Namibian number plates. Yalala explained that local truckers who sought tenders to transport minerals from Zambian mines were told that their companies must be registered and operating with an office in Zambia. If they are not domiciled in Zambia, he said, the companies must at least be operating under a company that has an office there.

“Also, for a Botswana truck to drive into Zambia, the driver should be ready to part with US$600 per trip per truck. But in Botswana, Zambian truck operators pay only P2500. Worse still, Botswana trucks are charged more than South African trucks, despite the fact that Botswana is nearer to Zambia than South Africa. This is unfair,” said Yalala.

He further explained that the same situation obtains in Zimbabwe, where no foreign trucker can operate unless they are in partnership with a citizen. Yalala lamented that Botswana has failed to protect its citizens because foreigners can simply obtain a “BA” permit and start operating without partnering with a local. He also said BOTRA has to urgently deal with conflicts that arise from backloads. This a scenario where a trucker who is paid for a return trip to deliver cargo to a certain area is later booked by a different customer at his destination. He explained that on arrival in Botswana, South African truckers charge less than the normal rate if they are booked to deliver goods on the return trip, because they have already been paid. This ends up closing out local truckers, who are considered expensive in bookings for delivery of goods in South Africa.
“We might end up losing a lot of business because of this. The situation is even worse for beginners in the industry. Our South African competitors are cutting us out with ridiculous price reductions,” he said.

He called on stakeholders and governments of neighboring countries to thrash the issue out and come up with standardized, uniform freight charges and general operational rules. Another problem that BOTRA is battling with is that of crime in the trucking industry. Yalala revealed that the theft of fuel, tires and other spare parts from parked trucks has reached alarming heights. While the association will assist police to curb the high crime rate, it will also launch its own initiatives, which include creating a national database through which the activities of all members will be monitored.

Yalala said such a move would also help members in tendering. He said BOTRA is also struggling to dispel the assumption by local companies and parastatals that local truck operators lack capacity to freight big cargo.

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