As I watched the unfolding of events around the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, I thought not only of the thousands of people whose lives were lost but also ahead to the aftermath of it all when rebuilding will start taking place. The scale of the task that lies ahead became particularly clear when the initial horror of that tsunami was replaced with the horror of the damage done by those raging waters.
While all eyes are now focussed on the damage and on finding the thousands of missing people, the day will come when the first truck moves into those stricken areas to haul away the rubble. Following this, more trucks will arrive bringing with them the first batch of building materials that will go towards rebuilding the homes, factories and businesses lost in the disaster. Trucks will also start bringing in food and other supplies for the inhabitants as they go about trying to get their former lives together.
It always happens that way, yet is never really noticed. The truckers always play a major role in either helping those who have been hit by some disaster or by playing a critical role in rebuilding what has been destroyed. And they will do so in Japan, just as they did after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. I wrote at the time: “In America’s darkest hour, the trucking industry of the USA opened its heart and came to the fore magnificently in helping not only those in New York and Washington D.C. but the entire country. By their actions, members of this industry proved to be corporate citizens of the highest order.’ (See Past Issues, September 2001 on our web site at www.fleetwatch.co.za).
The trucking industry in Japan will prove to be the same and you know what’s really great, our truckers are exactly like that as well. On the many occasions in the past when FleetWatch has called on truckers to help with some or other cause, not once have they refused. Rather, it’s been a case of: “Where and when and we’ll be there.’ From moving the huge Hospice Christmas tree to its new home at the Johannesburg Zoo (courtesy of Bulldog Hauliers) to helping deliver road safety packages to teams operating around the country over peak traffic periods (courtesy of Bakers Transport). These are just two examples. There have been many more over the years. Our truckers are always there to help.
On this point, what is not widely known, or recognised, is that some of our truckers , out of their own goodwill , came to the help of the people of Beaufort West in the Karoo during December when the town ran out of water during the worst drought in living memory. It’s an irony that while towns in Japan have just now been swamped by a flood of water, Beaufort West was left high and dry with no water over what was meant to be the Festive Season.
One of these companies was Transnational Freightlink which, in its own way and via an initiative of the company’s branch manager in Paarl, Neritia van Zyl, brought some cheer and relief to the folk of this drought stricken community when, on December 21st, the load of water shown in the accompanying photographs was delivered to the town ex Johannesburg at no charge. The water too was donated by a leading multi-national company.
Not only were the townsfolk extremely grateful but so too were the staff of the company. In a letter of thanks to the management team headed by Richard Ingram, Neritia wrote: “I’d like to thank you for the support you’ve given towards this project! Thanks for giving back to the community and thank you that you always show us, your employees, a side of your humanity that very few business owners ever would! It’s an honour to work for you – and with you – at Transnational Freightlink.’
So often on the receiving end of ill-will from the general public, truck fleet operators, their drivers and staff go unrecognised for the sterling work they do in keeping the wheels of our economy ticking over. In times of crisis, many of these operators go beyond the call of duty by committing resources to help alleviate the suffering of our citizens , and they don’t expect anything in return. They do it out of the kindness of their hearts. The 45actions of Transnational Freightlink prove this.
Another major contributor to helping relieve the plight of Beaufort West during its time of crisis was United Bulk, a top-flight road tanker operation with branches in Worcester, Durban and Vanderbijlpark. To take readers a little deeper into the thinking behind the company’s gestures, FleetWatch asked its CEO, Patrick Pols, why he and his crew decided to lend a hand and to describe what the initiative entailed.
FleetWatch: The drought in Beaufort West was obviously in ‘the news’ but what spurred you to offer relief?
Patrick Pols: In early December, our marketer in the Cape, Gideon du Plessis, approached Loyiso – my partner – and I saying he heard on the radio station, RSG, that things were not looking good in Beaufort West for the festive season when it came to drinking water. As the CEO of a company that has always been committed to giving back to the community, I just could not imagine spending my Christmas break on the beach in Glentana while Beaufort West ran dry. In addition, we have had dealings in the past with Beaufort West, supporting and participating in the Kanniedood project.
We weighed up all our options so as to have as little impact on our scheduling as possible and Gideon approached a Mr Wouter Visser from the Breede Valley Municipality, requesting them to supply the water for us to transport. We delivered our first load of water on December 16th, delivering a total of 17 loads from Worcester, of which five we ended up having to purchase.
We were then put into contact with Theuns Coetzee who represents ‘˜Droom vir Bonnievale’, a local community organisation based in Bonnievale. His co-ordination was superb, organising for us to collect six loads out of Bloemfontein and two loads from Colesburg.
He then put an organization by the name of Al-Imdaad Foundation (a nonprofit humanitarian aid organisation based in Estcourt) in contact with us and they organised 60 loads of water for us to collect from Oudtshoorn. Bitou LM Plettenberg Bay also committed to ten loads.
FW: How many vehicles did you use and what did it cost you?
PP: We had vehicles originating out of Worcester, Vanderbijlpark and Durban, delivering payloads of between 34 000 and 38 000 litres. By the end of the relief effort, United Bulk will have delivered nearly 3.5 million litres of water to the town at a cost of R467 000.
FW: How many trips were undertaken to deliver water to the town?
PP: We will have delivered 95 loads in total by the end of the campaign.
FW: What was the response like from the citizens/authorities of the town?
PP: The response has really been awesome from the local authorities, the inhabitants, clients, staff and even friends and neighbours.
FW: Did United Bulk co-ordinate with other transporters?
PP: No, it was not a co-ordinated effort as such but we are aware that a number of other transporters did deliver water but not on the same scale we did.
FW: Can you relate any specific challenges in undertaking the relief effort, perhaps an enlightening/moving anecdote?
PP: I was really surprised seeing an email doing the rounds, with photos of our vehicles, which originated from Arnold Thomas in Beaufort West and to see how far and wide it went. What was really amusing for me was listening to an interview done on the breakfast show on Cape Talk Radio on 1st February, with a representative from the Department of Water Affairs, where he stated that he ‘˜thinks’ about 1 million litres of water was delivered to the town.
FW: Did the relief work compromise your daily operations in any way?
PP: In certain instances it resulted in delays on the next load because of the single off-loading point and deliveries coming from different loading points but our clients were very understanding.
Can you believe it? A total of 96 loads from all over the country, 3,5-million litres of water at a cost to the company of R467 000.
And it was all done with a willing heart with nothing asked for in return. If that’s not giving back to the community, then I don’t know what is. With such altruistic fervour, one can only be inspired by the actions of both Transnational Freightlink and United Bulk. FleetWatch salutes you.