Truck stop aligns fund and member interests

The Transport Sector Retirement Fund's new investment strategy will ensure drivers have access to different facilities

The Transport Sector Retirement Fund's new investment strategy will ensure drivers have access to different facilities

The Transport Sector Retirement Fund looks at responsible investing differently from many in the retirement fund industry, according to Joe Letswalo, principal officer.

“One of the aspects the fund looks at is how to plough back into ensuring our members’ livelihoods are improved while they are employed. An example is the lack of secure facilities for overnight parking for truck drivers.

“So, part of our responsible investment strategy is to build truck stops to ensure that members are able to park and sleep safely, and also have access to accommodation, refueling, primary healthcare, and a restaurant,” says Letswalo.

The Harrismith Highway Junction Truck Stop, which is one of the biggest in Africa, was a result of the fund partnering with a truck stop company that provides the following services to members:

  • Safe and secure paved overnight parking;
  • A fully equipped and staffed clinic and wellness facility;
  • Driver rooms that allow drivers to rest fully and not sleep in the truck;
  • Clean ablution facilities and a drivers’ clubhouse, including a laundromat;
  • Truck service facilities;
  • 24-hour restaurant and cafeteria including an ATM and facilities for the purchase of airtime;
  • Office and contract management space; and
  • Warehouse space.
  • The fund is very excited with this investment as it ties in perfectly with the wellbeing of its members and assists in reducing the carnage experienced on South Africa’s roads due to truck drivers suffering from fatigue from driving long distances.

    The truck stop has developed to the point that in the region of 1 000 trucks park there for the night and companies are buying reserved parking bay space for their drivers.

    Letswalo says the fund is planning on extending the truck stop concept, with six more planned across the country, as it is a good example of responsible investing and aligning the fund’s investment strategy with its members’ interests. It also represents an investment that offers good returns, with yields of around 15% per annum, which provides a competitive advantage for the fund.

    “The truck stop concept was actually an idea of one our members, after which we researched the model and found that it is not only sustainable, but a unique asset class.

    “For example, Highway Junction is one of the few truck stops in the world where fuels from a number of different brands are offered, because many of the employers have long-term relationships with specific petroleum companies.

    “Furthermore, members know that the truck stop represents part of their investment, so they use it both for their physical wellbeing as well as to ensure good retirement investment returns.

    “The truck stops will also assist in taking care of the medical requirements of truck drivers, who will have 24-hour access to clinics where several tests, such those for as HIV and TB, can be performed.

    “This investment forms part of our alternative allocation in terms of our investment strategy, and is compliant with Regulation 28,” says Letswalo. 

    Awards reflect alignment with members’ interests

    The Transport Sector Retirement Fund’s success in the Institute for Retirement Funds Africa’s (Irfa) 2017 Best Practices Industry Awards and recognition programme — with six awards — is testimony to the fund’s focus on investment performance, transformation, and alignment with members’ interests.

    The Transport Sector Retirement Fund won the Best Practice in-class Trophy for Communication for large funds for the first time in 2015, again in 2016, and for the third consecutive time in 2017. The fund’s awards in 2017 also include two Best Practice Certificates – for communication and transformation – and three Special Achievement Certificates.

    Innovative employment of technology to improve services to members, communicate with them and enhancing the fund’s processes such as the submission of claim forms and information required is not only largely responsible for the fund winning the awards, according to communication consultant Estie van Coller from RetirementWise, but has also improved the relationship between the Transport Sector Retirement Fund and its members.

    “The innovative use of technology to improve communication has been crucial to the fund’s success, because mobility is the nature of most our members’ work. Technology has enabled us to reach [all] our members, even though few of them are in one place at one time.

    “Communications technology has given our members access to whatever information they need regarding the assets the fund is managing on their behalf. This has built trust between the fund and its members, because of the high level of access and transparency of information, which has been facilitated by cellphone and internet technology,” says Van Coller.

    She explains that the awards are a result of Irfa’s drive to encourage retirement funds to communicate with their members.

    “The Irfa instituted an annual communication competition to recognise and reward excellence in retirement fund communication. The competition was started in the 1980s and since then the emphasis has moved from recognition of communication to rewarding funds for world-class communication efforts that empower members to truly understand the workings of their retirement fund.

    Funds compete in large, medium, small and umbrella categories. The judges consider many factors when judging entries, including:

  • Effectiveness in general — the appropriateness at each level must be justified and relevant to the particular membership base;
  • Cost effectiveness;
  • Innovation and the use of technology;
  • Clarity of message;
  • Transfer of knowledge;
  • Communication above minimum required by PF86;
  • Ease of updating content into the future; and
  • Measurement of success.
  • The judges comprise a mixture of industry experts, academics and communication specialists.