As South Africa continues to grapple with the devastation of the pandemic and destructive protests, transport operators must seek ways to not only survive the impact of these adverse conditions but grow beyond them. But they will need help to do so.
So says Ndanganeni Adjei, Logistics Manager at Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA), who reflects on the need for companies and government to demonstrate their commitment to the sector by bolstering investments into the country’s logistics network, while ensuring the safety and sustainability of workers.
“When violent protests erupt, it is usually transport operators and truck drivers who face the brunt of the ire of mobs in the streets,” says Adjei. “During the wake of violent social unrest that erupted in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, we were immensely affected in both provinces, as well as in the Eastern Cape, with our deliveries to our customers, as well our supply of raw materials, being delayed.
“We can never be prepared enough for such events and the best you can do is to mitigate the impact through increased vigilance and more thorough security measures. At the end of the day, our employees’ lives come first and we need to work as a collective within the industry to ensure we play our role in positively contributing to the growth of our economy while minimising risk,” says Adjei.
To adapt and survive in the current environment, characterised by economic stagnation and an increase in volatility in communities, CCBSA has made a comprehensive realignment of its Owner Driver programme over the past year. This has already led to greater efficiencies, as well as profitability for operators who have achieved higher productivity through more relevant market targeting.
“Our Owner Drivers are extremely important to our route to market strategy. They are the ones who have endured some of the greatest pressure throughout the pandemic, as they are essential service workers who were on the ground engaging customers directly, as they are unable to work remotely,” says Adjei. “Our Owner Driver Scheme has been a vital part of our ability to serve our South African and cross-border channels.”
According to Adjie, the challenges of the past year have affected these transport operators directly, as volumes took a major knock due to lockdowns. “However, we are confident that we are on a strong path of recovery and look forward to supporting operators in getting their businesses to become sustainable and meet their full potential.”
The Owner Driver Scheme was established in 1993 as a central part of the Amalgamated Beverage Industries (ABI) distribution channel. This, coupled with South Africa’s development mandate, would provide previously disadvantage groups the economic opportunity to be a part of the supply chain of a major industrial operation.
Adjei says that existing owner driver fleet utilisation has now stabilised at just over 80% with the objective to ramp it up sustainably to 100% to ensure their sustainability.
With threats to volumes being a persistent concern for owner drivers, CCBSA has presented a plan to provide opportunities for owner drivers to expand beyond just delivering packaged beverages and to begin sourcing contracts with raw material suppliers, delivering these inputs during periods of low demand for finished product.
“Despite adverse market conditions, we are encouraged by the resilience of our people and our partners to drive growth and improve overall performance,” says Adjei, “Where we see gaps, we will take the opportunity to directly engage operators and develop meaningful interventions to ensure performance improvements We want to ensure that our logistics operators are motivated and inspired to embark on this journey with us in a safe and rewarding way.”