When Peter Williamson launched Javelin Trucking on March 1, 1986 with one bull-nose Mercedes-Benz truck tractor and two semi tankers, he had a very clear idea of the kind of service his company would offer.
“My colleagues, Alf Cloete and Jose Gomes and I positioned Javelin as a boutique fleet specialising in the transport of Dangerous Goods. My aim was always to offer a personalised service with a sharp focus on flexibility and safety to meet specific customer requirements,’ says Peter, now retired and living in Kwa-Zulu Natal, the birthplace of Javelin Trucking.
In an era when rail transport held sway over inter-city bulk transport, Javelin Trucking concentrated on deliveries within the Durban area for its two primary customers, Chrome Chemicals and Lever Brothers.
“Times were tough and we couldn’t afford new trucks. I was fortunate to have the financial assistance of the late James Jeffery of Arrow Heavy Haulage who acted as guarantor on our bank loans. Financial prudence was the watchword and I multi-tasked to keep our overheads as low as possible, managing most of the critical business disciplines including marketing and scheduling the deliveries. I even drove the trucks when necessary,’ says Peter.
In 1987, Javelin secured its first inter-provincial contract, delivering edible oils from Durban to Boksburg, an event that marked the birth of the fleet’s long-haul capacity. In 1989, the company moved from its depot in Jacobs to Vintner Place, Prospecton, Natal.
“The property was totally undeveloped so we erected two portable quick-jack offices. The main administration building, workshop and wash-bay were completed in 1991. By this time the company had grown to fifteen truck-tractors and twenty-five trailers. Javelin’s staff and customer base had also increased considerably in the five years since opening for business,’ adds Peter.
The early 1990s were certainly challenging times for all South Africans and as the country’s new political dispensation began to take shape, Javelin Trucking underwent its own management transition.
“Alf and I bought out the shares of James Jeffery and Jose Gomes in 1991, with Alf finally retiring in 1997 and selling his shares to Neil Rutenberg and John Mckay. This was the start of the Javrow Group, as Neil had brought Arrow Bulk Carriers into the fold. In mid 1999, IMPERIAL Holdings acquired sixty percent of Javelin Trucking with Neil and I retaining the other forty percent in equal shares,’ Peter explains.
By the turn of the millennium, Javelin Trucking had expanded its service offering to include the transport of petroleum chemicals, bulk lubricants, bitumen, food-grade products and marine bunkering lubricants.
“The fleet now numbered over fifty rigs and was conducting true long-haul duty into neighbouring countries. We ran Mercedes-Benz Powerliners and Internationals because they were reliable and well supported in the SADC region. In 2004, we opened Javelin Mozambique which allowed us to diversify into providing a range of logistics-related services to local companies in the country which include contract management with emphasis being placed on the SHEQ disciplines. Mozambique’s increased foreign investment has resulted in opportunities to provide services demanded by first-world standards, but at the same time being able to operate under the constraints of the local infrastructure,’ adds Peter.
Javelin Mozambique also offers ad-hoc services to local and foreign companies to attend to special clean-up of spillages and disposal of waste materials, as well as project management services.
“Petromoc, the oil company owned by the Mozambique government, is a key client of our Mozambique operation. Javelin Mozambique is also in a strong position to take up other opportunities in the transport of edible oils and other liquids because the backup and infrastructure available from the holding company is readily available,’ Peter says.
As part of the JSE-listed IMPERIAL Group, operating under the IMPERIAL Logistics banner, Javelin Trucking embraced the many compliance processes necessary for not only a publicly-listed company but also those regulations governing Dangerous Goods transport.
According to Fred Kingsley, Javelin Trucking’s general manager with over twenty years service: “Javelin has evolved into a diverse bulk liquid tanker transport and logistics operation, transporting a range of products from non-hazardous edible oils to highly flammable petrochemicals, with LPG and dry bulk being the only exceptions. The company has a tanker fleet capable of meeting today’s standards for safety and environmental responsibility.’
Javelin’s commitment to safe handling of chemicals is demonstrated through its participation as a partner in quality assurance programmes including SHEQ (Safety, Health, Environment & Quality), SQAS (Safety & Quality Assessment System), ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. The company was the first tanker transport company in Africa, and only the fourth transport company in South Africa, to be awarded ISO 14001 status in 2001.
“Sustaining excellence and leadership in our field goes well beyond compliance with the requirements of Chapter 8 of the Road Traffic Act and the extensive quality audits on our operations undertaken by our customers, who include several of the top fuel suppliers like BP and Sasol,’ says Kingsley. “A key focus of our organisation is the development of our staff who number just over 260 people, 115 of whom are drivers. Skills development and career pathing for all our employees has enabled us to retain our all our key staff over the years. While we may form part of the IMPERIAL Logistics juggernaut, we’re still a boutique operation at heart with strong family values and customers find it reassuring to know they’re dealing with familiar faces.’
From its base in Prospecton, Javelin now fields a fleet of 68 truck-tractors and 110 tankers, serviced at its Cummins-accredited onsite workshop. According to Fred, “Customer orders are processed by a team of dedicated and appropriately trained fleet controllers from the company’s operations centre in Prospecton. An in-house scheduling system was developed to assist and is constantly being modified and upgraded to meet specific requirements. We are in constant cellular and satellite contact with our drivers and our Operations offices are manned 24 hours a day.’
Javelin’s transport operation is managed by a dedicated and experienced team, each individual having undergone both on-the-job and academic training in their appropriate fields. All controllers have been through the University of Johannesburg’s Transport Diploma course.
“As a responsible operator, in addition to standard driver training, Javelin trains and retrains all its drivers and staff in key disciplines such as safe working procedures (via a driver manual which includes all internal policies, procedures and work instructions); hazardous product handling; basic first-aid training; Aids awareness; defensive driving; basic fire-fighting; fatigue management, and any other training required to fulfil both customer and operational requirements,’ says Fred.
Javelin’s training committee meets quarterly to discuss employee training needs and requirements. “All staff members, from the administration department to the general workers have an opportunity to gain or increase their knowledge by training them within their scope of employment. We endeavour to use unit standard-aligned or SAQA-approved service providers in order to satisfy our sector’s SETA (TETA -Transport Education and Training Authority) requirements. The committee also discusses employment
equity issues,’ Fred adds.
As a member of the IMPERIAL Logistics Group, Javelin Trucking has the financial resources to adopt environmentally friendly programmes that assist in reducing its carbon footprint. “Our eight-thousand square-metre property in Prospecton borders Reunion Park which is home to state-protected mangroves. Javelin has taken the responsibility of protecting and caring for these mangroves as a contribution to the environment,’ explains Fred.
“The depot consists of fully equipped workshops, wash bays, fuel storage tanks, admin offices and parking facilities. The fleet parking area has a sophisticated automated underground catch pit to mitigate environmental damage in the case of major spillage. We are committed to providing our customers with clean tankers for their loads with the objective of avoiding any contamination. Each tanker is issued with a cleanliness certificate prior to loading.’
Testimony to Javelin’s and IMPERIAL Logistics’ best-practice approach to safe, ‘˜green’ transport is the prestigious awards garnered over the years. In 2002, competing against the best marine bunker operators from America, Europe and Australasia, Javelin Trucking won the BP International Marine Supreme Green Award HSE Contractor award and the BP International Marine HSE Contractor Award for Best Global truck Contractor.
In 2011, IMPERIAL Logistics won the Mail & Guardian’s ‘˜Greening the Future Award’, thanks to its green initiatives which include distribution network optimisation, route optimisation, reduced vehicle emissions, reduced fuel consumption, improved refrigeration, renewable energy roll-out and water usage reduction.
According to the Mail & Guardian, judges of the award stated that, “the IMPERIAL Logistics entry was technical and frank with a holistic approach to the whole lifecycle of its operations. IMPERIAL is setting a good benchmark by positioning the Group’s environmental efforts at the cutting edge of international research, and within the context of the Millennium Development Goals.’
For Abrie de Swardt, IMPERIAL Logistics’ marketing director, sustainability and resource management are now essential for business survival: “We no longer have enough supply left to match our demand and it is going to get a lot worse. By 2100, we will need three more earths to satisfy our requirements. IMPERIAL Logistics’ ‘˜green logistics’ evolution is being driven at an economic level, both strategically and operationally. We are not only doing these things because it is of great importance to us but because it makes economic sense. Cost and carbon can be driven out of the supply chain simultaneously. The logistics and supply chain management sector must find ways to balance supply and demand more effectively. It is to the benefit of the South African and global economies to do this.’
Citing business leadership as a critical success factor to greening supply chains, Abrie adds that “we must move to create a world where despite our differences, we trust one another more. Companies should be asking themselves whether they are part of the problem or the solution. They should be assessing how to collaborate and whether they have the necessary elements to drive the required new way of thinking. Only then can the green business case stand firmly on its feet.’
In April 2011, Javelin Trucking became a wholly-owned subsidiary of IMPERIAL Logistics but all its staff remain as do the tenets of Peter Williamson’s founding vision. “We now have the financial manoeuvrability and security of a blue chip organisation that allows us to expand our operations and enhance our compliance and sustainability programmes. We are also able to invest in the best equipment to make our operation more energy efficient, like super-insulated bitumen tankers that significantly reduce product heating requirements. The beauty lies in the fact that we can do this without losing our flexibility and ability to offer a truly personalised trucking service to our clients,’ concludes Fred.