Occupying your lacklustre job day after day is sad. Occupying your vehicle for up to two hours a day to keep a lacklustre job is insane. Since 2003, the buoyant vehicle market has posted record sales due to low interest rates, a strong rand and the influx of foreign carmakers. The volatile fuel price and clamp down on travel allowances did little to dampen the party. The result is that thousands of one man/women cars are driving alongside trucks, buses, and taxis on the creaky road infrastructure. These individuals are collectively losing millions of minutes to traffic congestion. However, there are some beneficiaries of your bumper-to-bumper trips. The hideous bill boards, interruption marketing street vendors and ‘smash and grab’ thugs are doing well. By the time you turn into the company parking lot, you are already irritated without adding the workload for the day.
Against this background, Transport Month is a commendable endeavour for alleviating traffic congestion. It came with a package of voluntary goodies that would have succeeded in a first world country. But we don’t commute in a first world country. So the billboards imploring me to join a lift club and ‘park and ride’ on a bus were ignored. I don’t think I’m ready to give up travelling in my own vehicle for a lift club. But I do recommend using a lift club at some stage in your career – from experience, I found the gossip with other passengers about ogre bosses, a unifying force with therapeutic benefits. As for the park and ride initiative, I’ll consider it when I can walk on the street without clutching my briefcase.
I received an e-mail from the Department of Transport – (I don’t recall where I subscribed for their e-mail service), that requested my citizen participation on car free day, It listed the benefits of public over private transport such as “increased productivity and economic growth ” (I was unconvinced that taking public transport would allow me to leave later for the office in the morning) and “fewer cars mean fewer accidents on our roads. “ (I wondered if the taxis would fill the accident gap). But my favourite benefit was “The government can save the money it would have used to build and maintain roads and spend it to improve the lives of the poor by providing more housing, water, and social grants. “ Sorry but taxpayers are cynical about the government saving money these days when it is squandered on political figures and mismanaged projects. The e-mail concluded with a competition to win some prizes by sending a picture of myself using public or non-motorised forms of transport.
Transport month did raise other interesting questions like whether high occupancy regulation will reduce traffic bottlenecks. The high occupancy pilot project restricted the far right lane of the freeway during peak hours to buses, taxis and vehicles with three or more occupants. If it is implemented in future, it will put on the brakes on employees in one man/woman cars such as sales reps and tax consultants. The month was marred by the nationwide strike of taxi operators over the taxi recapitalisation programme. The programme has been on pedestrian speeds for seven years in placing safe taxis on the road. Taxi operators blockaded highways leaving thousands of commuters stranded in the process. The transport challenges on our roads will require HR leadership in the public arena and internal direction to assist employees.
The latest newcomer to the low fare air travel market is South African Airways’ Mango with its rock bottom prices and tightly packed seats. The airline has come under fire for using retired but experienced SAA pilots to fly their aircraft. Many passengers could be disturbed about flying with a sixty or seventy something. Here was a red hot opportunity for HR to demonstrate value to management, positively charge up the pilots and cause a stir in the market. My limited intellect would see HR collaborating with the marketing department to promote the calibre of their pilots and their excellent health (I hope).
(HR Future, December 2006)