My life with transport and trucking in South Africa…
Where do I start… for the last 10 years my life exists around transport, trucking and the biggest of all, trucks? I wish my body had an odometer so I could really tell you how many kilometers I have travelled. And the most important of all…I will never ever swap it for anything else in the world. Yes, I am very passionate about it. I had such good times and off course there are bad times but the good out shines the bad. I will always remember it. It made me who I am today and will still influence me and my future for the better. I know it will. There is no getting away from that fact.
I also have to add that everything I tell you here about transport and trucking in South Africa is how I have experienced it in the last 10 years. So please do not think it is factual for those how might think they can drag me to court if they don’t feel happy with what I have to say.
It all started when I was very young. I grew up in a family of 5. My dad, 2 brothers and I were mostly in the garage busy either with building or working on cars and my mother was a house wife. That is when my love for wheels started and as I grew up it also grew to love bigger wheels and machines. I bought magazines, posters and anything to do with a truck. As life went on I met a man as it usually is, in 2002. He was a truck driver. We are still married today despite some people saying it won’t last 2 years because we are both on the road and could not see each other. (I just have to add I do have a thing for a sexy man in a good looking truck). That was ten years ago. I got into a truck with him and realised this would be my future and so it happened. He thought me about trucks (the things I didn’t all ready know).
Today I own a transport company. H.J.M. Stander Transport and we are situated in Citrusdal, Western Cape, South Africa.
We are quite a new company on our own, before this we both worker for other companies. We mostly haul freight in the Western Cape area in South Africa but sometimes we have to go to the long road to haul freight. At the moment we haul anything legal that can fit on our trailer from bottled water, citrus fruit, watermelon, timber, clothing, containers, farming implements, tractors, glass for recycling, chemicals and even the much loved wines and beer. In the past we have hauled loads that could go in a reefer trailer like meat, dairy, juice, medicine and dry goods.
We own an International Eagle 9700 pro sleeper N14 select plus. He is the love of my life, if I may say so in more ways than one. I owe my current existence to this truck and transport. There are more on their way in the future. There might even be left hands, as we may only import right hand drives in South Africa at the moment.
Transport in South Africa is a very unthankful business. It is not nearly worth as much as in USA or Europe nor is it respected enough to be acceptable. Just a few days ago I had a huge meaning difference with a lady on face book because of a truck accident. It was a tanker truck filled with fuel and on its way to a filling station when the rear trailer of the link wagon fell over on the highway. It went up in flames causing big disruptions on the highways and on the residential roads. This lady washed out her mouth on face book about how she hates the trucks and in her eyes she thinks they take over the roads.
Also so as I try to fight for the trucks on the road and the drivers I reminded her that almost all the things she owns comes off a truck. The food she eats, the clothes she wears, the wines she drinks, the milk in her coffee, the petrol in her car, even the nice BMW in her driveway and the very expensive leather couch she uses to sit and kiss her boyfriend on, all come off a truck at some point or other.
This brings me back to the point I made earlier about the respect our trucks get from our fellow road users. South African road users think if they are in a car they have right away on the road and the trucks have to give way to them.
Most of them have never even been in a truck nor do they know what it takes to drive a big rig or even keep it on the road. Also the road conditions are terrible. It’s full of potholes. I have to put on new tyres a lot sooner even before it’s had all its tread done. Every few months or so I have to retread the new tyres I replaced just awhile ago. It’s expensive. 2 Yokahama R23 front tyres costs R9 000 in South Africa. Retreat is at R2 000 each. The roads in South Africa causes a lot of accidents because of its terrible state. Luckily I have to say we do not drive so much on roads in South Africa where we have to pay tolls and it still looks as if you are on a gravel road because they do not use the money to fix it. It’s a shame I have to say.
$1 usd equals 7.57 zar so r9 ooo equals $1,188 dollars
In 2002 when I started driving on the long road you could almost stop anywhere on the side of the road to have a rest or even take a nap. Now days you either have to drive yourself into a coma to get from starting point and the destination to avoid hijacking or having half of your load stolen right under your eyes. Or if you are lucky you will drive through a town where there is a little garage with some parking space for a truck to get in to and turn if they will allow you to park there for a few hours. There are only a few truck stops in our country which are for trucks and the truck driver when it comes to eating and resting. It’s not even a luxury. It is run down and dirty. The food is unhealthy and so expensive you can hardly afford it. So we do the next best thing.
That is to have a bbq next to the road. We buy some meat in a town we drive through. Get some wood and maybe some fresh bread rolls or anything else you would like to have with your meat and it would not spoil. Then we drive out of town to the nearest and most decent place we can stop next to the road. We make an open fire and “braai” (it means to bbq meat on an open wood fire). Usually it is more than one truck that stops. Drivers like to talk about anything and everything when they are parked next to the road.
There is huge trucker camaraderie amongst drivers on the road. If they have cb’s they talk. They talk the whole way on the road. Again they talk about anything and ever thing and even make up their own language and words for things in the road to stay awake. They support each other and when there is a death on the road of one of their mates they support the families of the lost driver. 2 of my trucker mates have lost their lives on South African roads in the last 5 years. Both in the action of doing what they loved the most…driving a truck. It’s sad but it’s worthy because they gave their lives to the road.
The facilities I spoke about… I am so ashamed to even speak about it. When I am on the long road and I know I will not make it home in time to go take a shower at home I always have to ask someone, a man friend, to smuggle me in at one of these stops. He has to have a look if there is a cubicle open and if he can he will help me in because there are no separate facilities for a woman. You seldom come across a truck stop in South Africa where trucker woman have a toilet for them self’s and if you do it is in such a terrible state you will rather go and wash yourself outside under a tap in the coldwater. What dignity lies in that? It makes you hard. It is sad but true.
Then we get to the costs. Our diesel prices are now R10.70 a litre. Do I need to say more?
When speaking about driving a truck in South Africa…some people think if you drive a truck you do it because you can’t find any other job or are too dumb to go to university. This is because there is no respect for trucks on our roads in South Africa. Now a days there are so many drivers in the work market. It’s flooded because of unemployment. Anyone can get a truck licence but…can they really drive a truck.
Also, those who usually wash out their mouths about trucks on the roads and the drivers no nothing about a truck or transport business in South Africa.
Do they know what it takes to keep a truck on the road when you are tired and a boss is on your back to get to your delivery point so he can get the next load in line for loading. Its long hours and its tiring.
Brings me back to the few places you can stop to rest. In South Africa there are no laws on how many hours you may drive or how long you should rest. Some of the bigger companies where the drive are only a number they do have their own rules where they are checked up on tracking systems and expect drivers to rest. They must stop at about 11pm and may only drive again at 4 or 5pm. If they rest in this time it is their business, but the truck must be parked.
Now a days I am home allot more than a few years ago because of my child and responsibilities that comes with running a business. Every time I have the chance to meet a truck driver I always think to myself…what does this man or woman give up to be on the road and earn a salary to feed his or her family.
The average truck driver in South Africa earn about R8000 to R10 000 locally and on the long hauling about R11 000 up to R16 000. When you see those amounts you should also ask what these drivers have to do to earn that money. Long hours on the roads and long times away from their families and home comforts. ( R10 ooo equals $1320. ) ( R16 000 equals $2112. )
They give up their health for the road. Does any one of the public ever think about that? I know they don’t.
In my years I have been on the road I have visited a lot of places. Some of the most beautiful towns and attractions in South Africa. I always say with the transport I have seen and been places I would never have seen and experienced if I had to have worked in an office.
I remember once I had to load at an abattoir. When I got there the load was not ready yet and had to sleep there to load the next day. That afternoon I took a walk and asked some of the workers if I could go in and see what they do inside. So I walked in and saw where the cows where put down and skinned. Yes I also have to say that if you know you are not a “strong” person you should not go in there. But I am glad I did. Now I know. Just as I know how wheat is handled before it’s made in to bread or porridge the same goes for chicken nuggets. Still I will not give up these experiences up for anything else may it be good or bad.
Now with all this said. The bad and negative feeds back I gave you now, I still love trucks, transport and trucking. It’s in my blood. I cannot live without my daily truck fix. May it be taking a drive in a truck or just watching trucks on our roads. Everything you read here is how I have experienced transport and trucking in South Africa the last 10 years. If I remember in ten years time I will again write about my experiences. Who knows……?
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(I apologise for the quality of some of the photos.)