Sometimes I sits and thinks. Sometimes I just sits. Over the past two months or so, there has been no time to just ‘sits’. I have been criss-crossing the country attending events, doing interviews, giving talks to various forums and generally interacting with different players in this mad but wonderful trucking industry of ours – from CEOs of huge companies to on-the-road truck drivers, and many inbetween. This interaction has once again reminded me just how multi-facetted the trucking industry of South Africa is – how important it is – how critical it is to every facet of life in our country. It has also reminded me of just how ‘ignored’ it is. Thinking on the move has confirmed what I have always said – and continue to say: “The trucking industry of South Africa is at the top of the ladder as a key contributor to this country. However, it remains the most under-rated and unrecognised in terms its importance.”
During October’s Transport Month – designated so by the government itself – I kept my eyes and ears open looking for some form of acknowledgement of the trucking industry from the higher echelons in Government. What I was looking for was just a small acknowledgement – a small thanks to the many thousands of people who work tirelessly in this industry – from the top man, President Jacob Zuma. After all, it was Transport Month. But alas – nothing! Maybe I missed it and if I did, please correct me. The only truck focussed event I know of which linked a Government minister into it happened at Highway Junction in Harrismith which was organised not by government but by Ben Deysel, owner of the truck stop and his team to acknowledge and pay tribute to the trucking industry – and particularly the truck drivers of South Africa. The Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters, attended a part of the event and good on her for being there. However, I was looking for more than that. There is not a department in Government where trucking does not come into the picture in making a contribution in some or other way. It would have been nice therefore to have the President throw a little morsel towards the industry to acknowledge it during Transport Month. Even one of his little chuckles would have been OK: “Trucks – listen carefully now – heh-heh-heh.” I must add that there were quite a few events aimed at passenger transport. So guys and dolls, we’re still on our own.
Knowing this, FleetWatch decided to go internally to acknowledge the industry and asked a number of leading opinion makers in the industry to sketch their thoughts on how they see the trucking industry’s role and status in South Africa. These are carried in this edition and we thank those who did contribute for taking time out of their busy days to do so. So many good points are made. Although all of these can be read inside this edition, given what I have said above, I am extracting a part of the submission by Dave Scott, FleetWatch technical correspondent and industry trainer and commentator. I do this as a wake-up call to President Zuma and all his Cabinet Ministers who don’t know this industry exists. As Scott says, millions of South Africans survive off road transport. He says a lot more. Here we go.
“Trucks exert a major influence on the economy despite representing a small percentage of total vehicle population. Many trucks – especially extra-heavy rigs – have more than “Trucks exert a major influence on the economy despite representing a small percentage of total vehicle population. Many trucks – especially extra-heavy rigs – have more than one driver so to the 360 000 truck drivers behind the wheel, we can conservatively add another 140 000 drivers keeping the wheels rolling. So 500 000 drivers earning a wage with an average of five dependents means that trucks feed and care for 2,5-million people every day – and that’s only from the driver’s seat. A conservative estimate can easily place another 150 000 people from all the support activities surrounding trucks – 650 000 income generators involved in road transport put bread on the table and care for at least 3,25 million South African citizens on a daily basis. The trucking industry is also a massive VAT generator of income for Government. The daily consumption of diesel fuel, parts, tyres, repairs and maintenance is a huge generator of tax for the Government to fund many Nkandlas.”
Let me now add what Max Braun, respected industry commentator has to say in his submission: “The South African government, at all levels, as well as the business community at large – including producers, manufacturers, wholesalers/retailers, civil and mechanical engineers, shippers, freight forwarders – can indeed be grateful to the broad based private transport sector. Why? Because they bit the bullet stepping up to the plate to invest massive amounts of money in building large warehouses and distribution centres, forming or commissioning logistics and supply chain service providers and investing in large fleets of vehicles capable and suitable to transport every type of load. In doing so, the large number of jobs that have been created in areas such as drivers, loaders, technicians, trainers, transport and fleet managers is commendable. The contribution of truck manufacturers and suppliers is also notable. Over the years, this sector has continually introduced improved truck technology providing access to better fuel usage, transport productivity and efficiency.”
And it is not only locally that this industry shines. There are a host of companies – both on the supplier and operator sides – that have broken into global markets taking South African developed products, systems and processes into overseas markets where they are not only adding value to those markets, but earning much needed revenue for South Africa. On the supplier side I think of MiX Telematics and Ctrack which have made great inroads with their fleet management and vehicle tracking systems. MiX Telematics has even listed on the New York Stock exchange. Then there is tanker manufacturer GRW which has won overseas contracts into major fleets against some of Europe’s leading trailer manufacturers. On the operations side, both Imperial as well as Unitrans are operating in Europe adding their local South African expertise to the international logistics arena. There are many others.
Based on this, can anyone explain to me why the trucking industry is afforded ‘Cinderella’ status in the wider scheme of things? Does it deserve such a status? The answer is a definite NO! The many thousands of people who work around the clock 365 days of the year to keep the wheels of the economy turning deserve so much more. In FleetWatch’s eyes, you are all heroes and we salute you as such. For us, Transport Month should be changed to Transport Day for it is truly on every day of the year that this industry contributes to the welfare of this country and its citizens. Salute!