Farewell Fritz, you will be missed
The transport industry has lost one of its greats as Fritz Hellberg, founder of Hellberg Transport Management (HTM), has passed on – but his legacy will continue, both in the industry and in the hearts and minds of all who loved him.
“I first met Fritz Hellberg around 1971 when he was a young engineer working for Hultrans in Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal,” relates Frank Beeton, industry analyst at Econometrix and FOCUS industry correspondent.
“Later, during my time in the motor industry, I had contact with him when he started Hellberg Transport Management, with his innovative and visionary computer simulation programs. I was so impressed that I actually sold the program for a short while after leaving the formal industry, and have maintained contact with Fritz, and HTM, ever since.”
But Fritz was involved in the commercial vehicle industry way before his HTM days. After graduating in 1962 as a mechanical engineer at the University of Natal, he did a two-year practical pupilage with AEC (later part of Leyland) and British Oxygen in the United Kingdom. Fritz then returned to South Africa and joined the Roads Department of the (then) Natal Provincial Administration as engineer in charge of equipment maintenance.
In 1970 Fritz went into the private sector and joined Hultrans, a transport company within the Huletts Group, as a transport engineer. Here he was responsible for vehicle and equipment purchases, their maintenance and the provision of maintenance facilities.
A trip to Australia, the United States of America and Europe in 1972, to explore the mechanical harvesting of sugar cane and other options for transporting sugar cane, sowed the seed of the dynamic vehicle simulation program, TransSolve, which is now widely used in the South African transport industry.
Fritz gained commercial experience as sales manager for Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles with NMI, based in Durban. Here the basic concept of the early vehicle simulation program was developed.
In 1978 he founded HTM, which is now at the forefront of computerised planning for the transport industry and is poised for expansion into overseas markets. (Take a look at the other three stories in this week’s newsletter for more on how Fritz changed the industry, tributes from those who knew him and what he meant to us at FOCUS.)
“Fritz was a true gentleman, a successful entrepreneur and a pioneer in his field,” Beeton points out. “He will be sorely missed by his family, staff, and very many people in the transport industry who have been touched by his humanity and competence. My deepest condolences go to Edith, Jens, Sorcha and the rest of the family, as well as Martin, Olav and all the staff at HTM.”