By Patrick O’Leary
“I’m amazed at what’s happening here today. It makes me feel so special. I really appreciate it.”
These are the words of Peter Groenewald, a truck driver with Van Der Vyver Transport who, when he pulled into the Bapong test centre on the N4 on December 10th was asked by a traffic official to get down from his cab. His immediate thought was: “Ag no, what have I done wrong now.” But no, he hadn’t done anything wrong. Quite the opposite in fact.
The official was part of the Trans-Kalahari Corridor Secretariat’s (TKCS) ‘Thank a Trucker’ campaign and she wanted Peter to step down from the cab so that she could personally thank him for the great work he – and all truck drivers do – in keeping the wheels of the economies of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia rolling.
“I got goose-bumps. And I was even given a present to take with me. This was something really special,” said Peter. His sentiments were echoed by the over 400 truck drivers who were reached in South Africa via this ‘Thank a Trucker’ campaign with one of them – sadly – saying no-one had ever thanked him before.
The ‘Thank a Trucker’ project was initiated by Namibia’s National Road Safety Council and, via collaboration with the Walvis Bay Corridor Group, the National Department of Transport and Trans-Kalahari Corridor Secretariat (TKCS), was extended right along the corridor embracing Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, the three member states of the TKCS.
Truckers who ply the route between South Africa, Botswana and Namibia along this corridor make up a large part of the road users and the stakeholders felt they needed to be recognized. Instead of merely sending out a social media post, the TKCS decided to directly interact with truck drivers and thus took to the road to do just that.
It was all about acknowledging the role played by carriers – and particularly truck drivers – in building the economies of the three member states of the TKCS. It was also about building and strengthening relationships which, contrary to what many companies think, you can’t do on social media.
The South African leg of the campaign was rolled out between the 6th and 10th of December along the N18 in Mahikeng and the N4 in Brits. It started with an information session held in Mahikeng with a number of guest speakers highlighting the importance of truck drivers and advocating for an appreciation of the role truck drivers play.
It then went onto Swartruggens on the N4 and other spots ending on December 10th when the TKCS team gathered in force at the Bapong test centre situated next to the N4 freeway on the Trans-Kalahari Corridor between Pretoria and Rustenburg. It was here that FleetWatch editor Patrick O’Leary caught up with the project – and what a vibe it was.
There were smiles all round as TKCS staff interacted with the truck drivers, handing out gift parcels to each driver and generally just letting the drivers know that they are appreciated. So instead of being peeved off at having to wait in a weigh-bridge queue, the drivers were taken by surprise and loved it.
And it wasn’t only the drivers who were pleased. Talking to a number of TKCS staff, they too found themselves being uplifted through their face-to-face interactions with the drivers. “These truck drivers are doing a great job for all of us and more people need to acknowledge them for this,” said the TKCS’s Neo Lekalakala.
Paul Stone, Director of North West Road Traffic Management was also there with a number of his staff as was Sello Lehari, North West MEC for the Department of Community Safety and Transport Management – all there to throw their weight and support behind thanking the truckers.
Two videos accompany this story and I urge you to watch both. The words of Leslie Mpofu, Executive Director of TKCS, rang as music to our ears – as they will be to all truck drivers around the county. He is spot on when it comes to acknowledging the role of truck drivers in the economy and in our lives and we hope that the whole country adopts this attitude. As Mpofu says: “They are actually our heroes”
And while many might decry the cops as being enemies, they are not. Sure there are some corrupt miscreants in the ranks but there are so many good cops who go out of their way to keep our roads safe. Listen in the second video to what North West Provincial Inspector Christopher Ditibane has to say about truck drivers. And then there’s truck driver Peter Groenewald – so appreciative of what he experienced. It’s all the right stuff.
FleetWatch has always strived to elevate truck drivers to their rightful position of importance in society and the economy and we lift our hats to the TKCS for doing exactly that in such a grand way. Salute to the TKCS and salute to all truck drivers. Our wish is that the whole of the region adopts this attitude.