Home FleetWatch 2013 Comments by Patrick O'Leary Vacillating between optimism and pessimism

Vacillating between optimism and pessimism

Patrick O'Leary - Publisher/Managing Editor

WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE help me as I’m vacillating between optimism and pessimism when it comes to the future of the trucking industry in South Africa? It’s not that I have doubts about the ability of the trucking industry to get along. It’s just that the climate in which the industry is operating , the environment of South Africa – is deteriorating at a rapid pace which means the trucking industry’s future is not bright.

As most FleetWatch readers will know, I have always been the eternal optimist looking on every dark cloud as having a silver lining. It’s just that of late, I am finding it more and more difficult to see that silver edge as the clouds seem to be getting darker and darker over South Africa. Just today, I picked up The Star newspaper and these were the headlines of the stories appearing on pages 6 and 7: “Rape-accused cop laughed as woman prayed , claim’; ‘˜Police murder probe irks family’; ‘˜Fatal shooting casts dark shadow on industry pact’; ‘˜Mpofu robbery accused in the dock’; ‘˜Maqubela murder trial delayed again’. No, those were not two pages dedicated to crime reporting. The strap-line above those pages was ‘˜News’. So the news we are making in South Africa is all about murder, rape, robbery, forgery and corruption. Let’s turn to page 2 of the same newspaper. The lead story was headed: ‘˜Eskom executives victims of identity theft’ while the story immediately below that carried the headline: ‘˜16 face murder, robbery and rape charges.’ Need I go on??? Where was the good news? Ah, there it was, right opposite on page 3. Unfortunately though, it had nothing to do with South Africa. It was all about Angelina Jolie ‘˜having a Jolie good time as she rakes it in.’ There’s got to be a good news from South Africa, I thought. I turned the page only to see the lead page story on page 4 headed: ‘˜More Tlokwe drama as ousted major refuses to go.’ Underneath that was a full colour picture of four guys in court after being arrested for the murder of former cop Major-General Tirhani Maswanganyi. The headline was: ‘˜Bag of surprises at bail hearing.’ And that’s just one newspaper. Let’s move to The Citizen of the same day. Not much better as the front page lead story was headed: ‘˜Jobless shock’ with the story inside headed ‘˜Joblessness at highest level ever’. Let’s move away from the newspapers’¦.

I recently attended the opening of a new Super Group multi franchise dealership in Rustenburg (see story inside). I sat with an operator who poured high praise onto the service offering of the dealership but when I asked what the operating climate was like out on the road, he told me hijacking was once again becoming a real problem. “Just last night we had an attempted hijack on the N14 and my driver told me it was the cops who tried to hijack him.’ How often have we heard this same story? The very people in society we are supposed to trust are becoming the people we can trust the least. Add to all this the militancy of labour strikes which have served to erode investor confidence and the pathetic political leadership that is more concerned with self-enrichment that the good of the country – and where are we heading.

Don’t you see it President Zuma? Surely you must see it? So many do but you, as leader of our country, don’t seem to see it? Are you even looking? You can’t be because it is all so obvious. The vibe in the country is not good. There are so many examples I can give to illustrate this but surely you know them. Surely you can see it?

I recently attended a lunch meeting with Imperial Logistics where global thought leader Kevin O’Marah gave a presentation titled “Managing service providers: How to get better results through stronger engagement’. A core outcome of the presentation which struck me as being so relevant in achieving beneficial long-term benefits for all parties was to build relationships based on trust. In South Africa, that word ‘˜trust’ seems to have disappeared from our landscape and this not only in political circles. Consider the shenanigans of the construction companies which colluded on tenders for the building of the stadiums for the Soccer World Cup. It was so disappointing reading of this saga. Sure we would all like ‘˜more’ and especially if we hit hard times at some or other stage in life , which we all do – but turning to underhanded methods to get out of it is not the way to go. You can’t overturn your principles when things are not going your way , or when you want ‘˜more’. But I see principles being upturned in so many areas of South African life. It just doesn’t look good to me.

All this is the environment in which the South African trucking industry has to operate. Many have told me it’s no longer fun being in trucking. The overall climate is just too hard. This is particularly true for the small to medium sized companies which are finding it a daily struggle to keep up. One youngster told me he sees the industry deteriorating and he doesn’t see a future for him in trucking. And I assure you, this man is a bright youngster who could add tremendous long term value to the industry and South Africa as a whole. But he is disillusioned. So please will someone help me. Do I have cause to be optimistic for the trucking industry? Do I have cause to be optimistic for South Africa?

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