Amid the excitement around the arrival of the first PBS vehicles at Timber Logistics’ depot, there was a group of very special people who were not the focus of media attention, but who were clearly enjoying the occasion immensely – the drivers.

One of 15 PBS vehicles Timber Logistics depot
One of 15 PBS vehicles the Timber Logistics will operate to haul timber to Sappi’s Saiccor mill. A nutritious meal served at Timber Logistics depot helps to keep drivers fit and healthy.

 

These guys are the lifeblood of the operation because the giant PBS vehicles and their 46 ton payloads will be in their hands.

Timber Logistics places a huge emphasis on developing people from within and this has paid off handsomely. The company has been involved in the forestry business for 17 years, and currently employs 90 drivers. They are the main transporter bringing timber into the giant Saiccor mill on the KZN South Coast, and manage the woodyard at Sappi’s Ngodwana mill in Mpumalanga.

The man in charge of driver training at Timber Logistics is Marcus Sishane, a former driver who has worked his way up through the ranks and is now a director and shareholder of the company.

Marcus said that new drivers must have at least three years’ experience and must come recommended. For the first three days, the drivers are assessed by Marcus to identify their competencies and where they are lacking. If they are ‘trainable’ and have the right attitude, they move on to the next stage which involves three days of theoretical training in the company’s in-house training centre. This is followed by two days of practical training with Marcus accompanying them on the road. Thereafter, they must accompany one of the experienced drivers to learn the routes and the rules and procedures around loading and unloading etc.

“Only after that is the driver allowed out on the road,” said Marcus. “After a week, I’ll follow up to check that he’s doing everything properly, and will send him back to the training centre if necessary.”

The company arranges accommodation for the drivers nearby, and serves specially balanced, nutritious meals every day to ensure they are rested and well nourished when they go on shift. The aim of the meals is to ensure that the drivers don’t end up relying on fast food take-aways which are unhealthy and which provide a brief energy boost followed by fatigue.

A ‘drivers indaba’, attended by Timber Logistics MD Brian Hunt, is held every month at which the drivers share ideas with management on how to improve efficiencies and safety.

Another employee who plays a key management role at Timber Logistics, is Fred Dube. He started out as a Bell operator and now manages the depot and the control room. Fred is also a director and shareholder of the company.

The other shareholders in the business are Brian’s daughter, Lyn Hunt, who is the Operations Director, and Derick Jaftha who looks after the HR, legal compliance and safety issues.

“I’ve learnt that one of the keys to success in business is to invest in the people whom you already have on your staff and to give them opportunities,” said Brian.

With the arrival of the rest of the PBS vehicles in November, Timber Logistics will need to increase their driver pool from 90 to 140. With such a large fleet on the road, driver training and management will definitely be taking a front seat.

Published in September/October 2009



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