A reason to be proud

South African transport operators have every reason to be proud. That’s according to Dr Martin Zimmermann, CEO of Mercedes-Benz South Africa …


Zimmermann was speaking at the über impressive launch of the new generation Freightliner Argosy in the dunes of Swakopmund in Namibia recently. We reported on the new truck in last month’s FOCUS – but the aspect of the new vehicle that truly struck me is the fact that it makes truck drivers’ lives a tiny little bit easier. I’m always massively supportive of anything and everything that makes a truck driver’s life easier; I think they are widely maligned and unappreciated – and they have pretty lousy jobs at the best of times.

For instance, the new Argosy boasts the Eaton Fuller Ultrashift plus transmission – which means the truck driver doesn’t have to control the clutch on pull away.

As we mentioned last month, it even incorporates a gradient sensor. The sensor allows the truck to determine whether it is on a gradient or a flat surface, and automatically defaults to an appropriate starting gear – enabling the truck to get up to speed with as few gearshifts as possible. Significantly, this is not done at the expense of clutch life.

But I digress. I was happy to hear Zimmermann sing operators’ praises during his official speech. We chatted afterwards – to be perfectly frank, I was wondering if he was just being nice to the customers who were present at the launch. After all, it pays to be nice when you’re trying to persuade customers to part with millions.

Apparently not. He insisted that he really has been impressed by the professional nature of road transport operators’ businesses here in southern Africa (he’s met a number of operators since he took over as CEO on May 1 last year). In fact, he reckons our boys are up there with the best in the business – worldwide.

This is high praise indeed, and I think it’s most deserving. Of course, crime is one of the reasons our industry is run so professionally. No, I haven’t gone nuts. I’m referring to our sensational fleet management industry, which was born out of crime. Readers who have been in the game for a while will recall that fleet management was initially all about vehicle tracking – because operators needed to keep tabs on their vehicles (and drivers, for that matter). Today, as Jaco de Klerk reports on page 34 of this issue of FOCUS, the fleet management industry has evolved to the point where it is helping to reduce operational costs, improve customer service levels, and enhance the safety and security of drivers and goods alike. And it’s one of the most sophisticated in the world.

As such, local operators are able to manage their fleets – and thus their bottom lines – so much more efficiently than their counterparts in other parts of the world.

Maybe sometimes crime does pay …

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