Born to truck
Recently I met an incredible young man who rejuvenated my love for all things trucking (not that it’s ever waned really). Polokwane’s Dewald Coertse was clearly born to truck!
I met the inspirational Coertse during the finals of the Scania Southern Africa Driver Competition. Along with his wife and daughter, he had travelled to Nasrec to compete in the event. I’m not sure what excited him more: the chance to be behind the wheel of a Scania or the prize money (the winners received a whopping R50 000!)
The officials practically had to pry him out of the truck after the competition had ended. “As I told Desire, my wife, it’s like a bug. I didn’t want to get out of that truck,” he conceded with a huge grin.
Coertse was a hot favourite to take top laurels at the national finals, after coming first in the regionals, but, for him, his star performance at the regionals was relatively unimportant. “The knowledge that I gained was far more significant. For instance, I learnt all about the benefits of doing first-aid training. During the regionals I spent a lot of time in discussion with the medics. I learnt how to stop bleeding, for example,” he said.
This knowledge came to the fore when he was first on the scene of an accident recently. “I saw a bakkie and a car being involved in a head-on collision. I immediately pulled to the side of the road and put on my hazards. I went to the driver of the car, got her attention and started to help her. I got her to close her eyes and broke the window to get access to the vehicle,” he explained.
“Thanks to my training, I knew not to move her from the vehicle, but I also knew that it was vitally important that she remain calm. So, I stayed with her the whole time, keeping her calm while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. I knew exactly what to do. Had it not been for my training and my experiences at the Scania competition, I would have been in a flat spin!” he related.
Sadly, Coertse’s sentiments are not shared by all truck drivers. During the competition, I witnessed one driver who refused to complete the first-aid module of the competition. “This is not part of my job,” he told the paramedics.
Coertse says this is sad. “I wish truck drivers would take first-aid training more seriously. It would make the world of difference on the road. Truck drivers are often the first guys on the scene of an accident, but so many are clueless about first aid! I saw a truck driver at an accident recently and it was obvious that he didn’t know what to do …” he told me.
Equally sad is the fact that Coertse is not working as a truck driver at the moment. “It just hasn’t been possible. I adore trucks and I would love to spend the rest of my life driving trucks. I’m thinking of starting a transport company within the field of recycling …” he revealed. (His wife wants to be a truck driver too, so she would probably join him out on the road.)
Now I bet I know what you’re wondering: so how did Coertse do at Scania’s Driver of the Year Competition? Not as well as he’d hoped. “I messed up,” he told me with a grimace. “But never mind. If you ask my wife and daughter, they will tell you that I am the best truck driver in the world!”
Hats off to the winners of the competition, and to Scania for hosting a superb event. This competition acknowledges the importance of truck and bus drivers and I, for one, think that that’s a Seriously Good Thing!
These are the winners and runners-up:
Nicolaas Kallie Truter – WS Transport
Jacques van Eeden – Safika Oosthuizens
Jacobus Venter – FMJ Trust
Moonsamy Pather – Bakers Transport
Felix Gunther – Zwartbooisberg
Lawrence Nkwinika – Great North Transport
Paya Letsweletse – Botswana Defence Force
Mothowetsho Motsumi – Botsa Express
Frederick Hermanus – Hylton Ross
Ronny Kaputjaza – City of Windhoek
The drivers were rewarded with cash prizes while the operators received substantial vehicle discounts.