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How to adapt your road-freight business during the Covid-19 era

Marcus Ellappan, director of road freight for Bidvest International Logistics (BIL), said “Road freight in this country is on its knees. There is a regional imbalance of freight due to the decline in the economy, which means hauliers are battling to generate revenue, let alone operate profitably, especially on return loads. The protests by truck drivers against the hiring of foreign nationals are impacting on utilisation of assets, which also impacts negatively on profitability. Some hauliers are now downsizing fleets as trucks stand idle, and with that jobs are being lost.” In addition, says Ellappan, “The costs of complying with Covid-19 protocols have negatively impacted the costs of doing business, and often these costs aren’t recoverable.”

With plans in place to announce an adjusted road-freight service offering, Ellappan believes BIL’s road-freight division will be ideally positioned to offer faster and stronger supply-chain support, especially where customers’ cost of doing business is concerned. “Our transport-management system is being continually developed, so later this year we’ll be able to offer clients a whole basket of new benefits,” he says. “The product driver, combined with the right behavior, and taking into consideration utmost compliance and excellent customer service, are elements that will form part of our new and adjusted offering.”

“We’re all in this together, and we empathise with what our industry peers are going through,” Ellappan says. He offers fundamentals to ensure a business stays afloat in the road-freight market in South Africa. First, staff need to be continually trained so that they become multi-skilled and part of a model that can be “flexed” during varying economic conditions, he believes.

Strict safety and compliance measures need to be continually upheld – and not only during times of crisis – so that employers can mitigate some of the immediate impacts a business may go through during the early stages of a global/national crisis.

Operating a leaner business model and being able to add on rather than reduce, is something players should be looking at, Ellappan says. And continually developing technology to simplify processes and eliminate wastage is another key area.

And the golden thread, he believes, is communication. “Communicate with all employees, as often as possible, so that they feel they’re being involved in the business’s decision-making and development.” Many business strategies fail at execution stage because of a lack of communication, he says.

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