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Study calls for extension of moratorium on transport height restrictions
Author: Corporate Communication / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie [Alec Basson]
Published: 14/07/2020

"Many South African industries, especially the fruit industry, could suffer major financial losses if they're not allowed to transport their goods in high cube containers if the moratorium is not extended. Governments seven-year moratorium (2011-2018 and extended to 2019) which exempts vehicles that transport such containers, had expired. The moratorium is likely to be extended to June 2021, but that is still to be confirmed by government. 

“If the moratorium is not extended, the subsequent financial impact could have a debilitating effect on our economy. Many customers, nationally and internationally, would not receive their products if it becomes illegal to transport goods in high cube containers," says Tiffany Adams who works as a Solutions Analyst in Johannesburg. She obtained her Master's degree in Logistics Management at Stellenbosch University recently.

Adams focused specifically on the fruit industry, saying it exports 90% of fruit produced to international markets via refrigerated containers. “According to Fruit South Africa, the industry will encounter a price increase in the cost of transport if the legislation is not amended due to the severity of seasonal production and export volume flows."

Financial impact

As part of her study, Adams tried to determine what the financial and operational impact on the fruit industry would be should the moratorium expire and the regulation governing vehicle height restriction not be adjusted to allow the use of high cube containers on normal trailers at a height of 4,6 metres.

She points out that Regulation 224 (b) of the National Road Traffic Act, 1996 (Act 93 of 1996) legislates that the maximum legal height limit for vehicles without a permit for an abnormal load is 4,3 metres.

“The problem is, however, that a 2,9-metre container on a flat deck trailer standing at a 1,60-metre deck height results in an overall height of 4,5 metres, thus exceeding the legal limit of 4,3 metres.  

“Because high cube containers transported on normal trailers exceeded the legislated limit, a moratorium was issued in 2011 that exempted motor vehicles transporting such containers from complying with the provision of the regulation." 

In addition to talking to various government officials and stakeholders in the fruit, shipping, road transport and rail transport industries, Adams asked them to complete a survey on their ideas and solutions regarding the regulation of high cube containers. 

She says most responders preferred a height between 4,3 and 4,6 metres, adding that they were concerned about the financial impact on the fruit industry and the country's economy should the legislation remain at 4,3 metres. 

“The reason is that transporters would need to replace their trailers to meet the new legislation, with each trailer costing approximately R300 000. If the legislation is kept at 4,3 m, many loading and unloading docks would have to be lowered to 1,40 m to access trailers and containers at a cost of R30 000 per dock. 

“The fruit industry would have the burden of R27 million to lower the container stations to the height of 1,40 metres. Productivity, efficiency, product flow and profitability within the fruit industry would also decrease significantly."  

Adams says the respondents also stated that there haven't been any recorded accidents or incidents while transporting high cube containers. 

“Containers have tipped over because they were loaded incorrectly or the load shifted during transit. The height of 4,6 m has been used for 30 years when transporting high cube containers and has not posed any specific threat or risk to other road users." 

According to Adams, high cube containers are the norm around the world and many countries have adjusted their legislation to accommodate the transportation of these containers. 

Ten years

She calls for a further extension of the moratorium by 10 years so that the Department of Transport can commission a study on the safety of transporting high cube containers, conduct an investigation into the current regulation and performance-based standard (PBS) design projects, and define and implement the PBS policy.

“Extending the moratorium would allow time for a gradual phase-in of any new equipment and infrastructure that has to adhere to the PBS standards during this time.

“This would also allow industries to operate efficiently for the time being and to obtain the necessary new equipment gradually to meet the current legislation, should it remain as is after the moratorium expires."

Adams says transporters should be allowed to use of trailers with a deck height of 1,40 metres to meet the legislative height of 4,3 metres. They should also be issued with abnormal load permits until they have adjusted their fleet to adhere to the regulation.

She adds that government needs to consider all inputs from the various industries and determine what would be the best course of action for the whole economy.

  • Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


Tiffany Adams

Unitrans Supply Chain Solutions



Martin Viljoen

Manager: Media

Corporate Communication

Stellenbosch University