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Truck stops promote driver safety and responsible investment

Besides its goal of ensuring that once members retire their living standards are maintained, the Transport Sector Retirement Fund (TSRF) continually looks for ways to improve members’ livelihoods while they are still actively employed.

An example is improving the quality and security of overnight parking facilities for truck drivers.

“There are an insufficient number of truck stops in South Africa and existing truck stops do not provide acceptable rest and security facilities,” explains Joe Letswalo, principal officer at the TSRF.

“There is no established national truck stop brand. Truck stops are the missing link in the country’s road transport strategy.

“Truck accidents cost the transport industry R18-billion annually, and the main cause for accidents is driver fatigue.

“In recognition of the fact that 70% of TSRF’s members are truck drivers and as a proactive answer to the negative state of affairs, the fund has developed a responsible investment strategy to build truck stops that will ensure our members and the the broader transport sector community are able to park and sleep safely, and also have access to accommodation, refuelling, primary healthcare facilities, and eatery facilities,” says Letswalo.

He reports that the planned truck stops align with Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s research findings and recommendations that include: more and better rest areas; facilities for regular safety checks; improved integration of on-road safety and fleet management systems; and improved regulation.

“In order to establish a trusted and recognisable brand, the truck stop marketing and branding will encompass the vital principles of safety, innovation and a premium service levels offering.

“The development of this national brand positioning in collaboration with the industry players will create a strong, recognisable identity, which endorses standards and regulations that support the transport and logistics industry.

“We have the advantage of being the first mover and believe the truck stops will support the creation of efficient goods transport hubs,” says Letswalo.

He points out that in 2017 master investor Warren Buffet invested in a chain of 750 truck stops across 44 US states and Canada when he acquired 80% of Pilot Flying J Truck Stops.

The first in TSRF’s truck stop investment strategy is the Harrismith Highway Junction Truck Stop, which is one of four truck stops the fund plans to roll out over the next 18 months and is among the biggest in Africa.

The Harrismith Highway Junction Truck Stop is the fruit of the fund partnering with a truck stop company and has resulted in the provision of 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;
  • Clean ablution facilities and driver’s clubhouse including a laundromat;
  • Truck maintenance and 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.
  • Letswalo says the fund is very excited about the truck stop investment strategy 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, due to driving for long distances and the paucity of adequate rest facilities.

    The Harrismith Highway Junction Truck Stop has developed to the point that it provides employment for more than 200 people; around 1 400 trucks use the facility daily. Furthermore, companies are buying reserved parking bay spaces for their drivers.

    The truck stops is will also be to assist in creating a pool of skilled drivers, as there is huge shortage of this requisite skill. In collaboration with Scania and the Transport Education and Training Authority, truck stops will be used as a training ground during the day, as trucks only park overnight.

    This is also creating employment for the local population and assisting the transport sector employers with scarce critical skills.

    Letswalo says truck stop site allocation is important. All the truck stops will be located near major cities, at a natural stopping point determined by travel time or at borders. Sites must be highly visible and easily accessible from major roads that are primary transport routes.

    “We are planning on extending the truck stop concept to sub-Saharan Africa through our neighbouring states, as it is not only a good example of responsible investment and aligning the fund’s investment strategy with its members’ interests, but also represents an investment that offers good returns, with yields of around 20% 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 in 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 companies have long-term relationships with specific petroleum brands.

    “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 that the truck drivers have, as they provide 24-hour access to clinics where primary healthcare is offered.

    “This investment forms part of our alternatives allocation in terms of our investment strategy and is compliant with Regulation 28 of the Pension Fund Act,” says Letswalo. 

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    Alf James
    Guest Author

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