Road freight (also sometimes referred to as ‘road haulage’ or ‘road transport’) is often the most effective mode of transport for Southern African countries, particularly when exporting to the land-locked countries of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi. Road haulage also operates between South Africa and Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana and certain parts of Mozambique, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Namibia.

Not only is road freight a consideration for exports into Africa, but also a large portion of exports from land-locked cities such as Johannesburg, Kimberly, Pretoria, etc. are moved down to the ports (Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, etc.) by road. Even if you are based near a port, you are likely to use road trasnportation to move your goods from your factory to the quayside. Thus road transportation may form part of your transportation considerations, even if you are shipping your goods by sea. Local companies using air freight to get their goods to foreign markets are similarly likely to use road transportation to move their products from the factory to the airport. You should also not forget that road haulage may form a significant part of your transportation in countries in Europe, the US, Australia, etc., as the goods are moved from the port of discharge to your final destination. Thus road freight is likely to form an integral part of your transportation and logistical options.


Carrier Haulage – Fines for overloading

Overloading on South African roads is a criminal offence.

To comply with the legal road weight limitations, containers need to be packed according to ISO standards to ensure that there is equal weight distribution inside the container and across all axles.

Please be advised that all fines as well as costs incurred due to court action taken (eg weight misdeclarations, incorrectly packed containers, clerical errors made by customer) will be on-passed to the party responsible

Road haulier services

Road hauliers offer the following services:

  • On a door-to-door basis, where the road haulier collects a consignment of goods from an exporter’s premises, and transports the goods to their final destination in a neighbouring country.
  • On a depot-to-depot basis with support facilities for collection at the point of origin and delivery to the country of destination.

Road transport quality system

In terms of the Road Transport Quality System (RTQS), South African road hauliers will be strictly monitored. This is achieved through the issuance of permits. Permits will not be issued or renewed if a haulier is found to be overloading and/or operating sub-standard vehicles. Irrespective of the type of cargo road hauliers carry, they are required to obtain a local transport permit for the purpose of transporting goods within the country of destination as well as those countries through which the vehicle may travel.

Road freight into Africa

In some African countries, the local road traffic authorities are reluctant to issue transport permits to hauliers not based in that country. This can lead to transshipment problems and possible delays. In order to overcome these problems, some South African hauliers have set up branch offices in countries where such restrictions are enforced. These branch offices facilitate more effective communication between the exporter in South Africa and the haulier in the foreign country.

Factors influencing the choice of road haulage for export

The decision to use a road haulier for the whole or part of the transit, to a foreign destination is influenced by a number of factors:

  • Speed

    The transit time for over-the-border consignments can be shorter by road than by rail (or sometimes even by air). This is because the road haulier controls the delivery of the goods right up to the final destination (which may be near the border and far from the main airport), whereas goods transported by rail can be delayed when railway trucks are handed over from one railway authority to another.

  • Convenience of distribution

    When goods are being exported to a neighbouring country, a road haulage service may provide either direct delivery to the importer or to a convenient point nearby.

  • Freight rates

    Freight rates in respect of road freight rates are generally lower than those rates offered for carriage by air. However consideration should be given to the higher risk which cargo is exposed to when freighting goods by road, and, as an example of this, it is worth noting that insurance cover for war and riots, is not available when goods are dispatched by road or rail freight. Road freight movements are prepaid, as road hauliers are reluctant to deliver cargo into an African country without having the freight prepaid in South Africa.

    VAT and customs requirements for road freight

    There are many delays associated with customs clearance of goods at the border posts. To avoid unnecessary delays, the exporter or his freight forwarder must ensure that all the necessary documentation has been supplied and accurately completed, to ensure ease of movement through the border post.

    The goods moving into African countries can be cleared at the closest customs office at their place of origin in South Africa. The following documents are required:

    • A customs-authorised bill of entry
    • A commercial invoice

    Unlike ocean or airfreight, there is no standard transport document for road haulage. Road hauliers normally design their own waybills, which resemble road manifests. Customs and Excise require a border stamped copy of the bill of entry as proof of export. If the exporter cannot ensure receipt of this copy he must charge VAT to the importer, and this amount would be stated on the commercial invoice.

    Import permits

    In many African countries there are severe foreign exchange shortages and import permits have to be obtained by the importer prior to the importation of goods. It is the responsibility of the exporter to ensure that the import permit will be available at the border at the time of customs clearance. The import permit number should be stated on all necessary documents these are:

    • Commercial Invoice
    • Road consignment note
    • Packing list

    Additional links

    CorridorNet publishes, relevant, real-time news about the successes, solutions and problems along the corridors that impact on the free flow of cargo. It is the ideal information tool for all operational parties involved in the conveyance of cargo along these corridors and serves as an authoritative guide to the freighting community, manufacturers, importers and exporters about the opportunities the various corridors present.