By Elka du Piesanie, Bureau Operations Manager, and Olivia Kumalo, Bureau Key Account Manager, Hollard Trucking

Over 4 500 men have entered the Hollard Highway Heroes competition for truck drivers since its launch in 2015, but not a single woman. We know the transport and logistics sector remains an untransformed, male-dominated one, but not even one woman entrant?

Clearly, something has to change.

But what? And how? We sell insurance, and while we can engage robustly with our customers around matters such as risk, the law and compliance, enforcing gender transformation isn’t really our core business.

However, our employer’s business purpose calls on us to create and secure better futures for more people, adding a specific, social aspect to our work. And in that sense, gender transformation is our business.

It was early in the afternoon on 8 August 2019, at the Women in Transport Summit near OR Tambo International Airport, when the ideal opportunity would eventually present itself: a partnership with the Commercial Transport Academy (CTA), a majority black woman-owned, 100% women-operated driver training school.

We often receive requests to sponsor transport initiatives, due to our driver-centric approach to insuring risk: the better the driver, the better the risk. We don’t go for them all, but our introduction to CTA founder Nicci Scott came at the right time to start backing female truck drivers in the sector. Two years down the line, this is where we are.

The CTA launched the Women Inspiring Women to Lead in Transport initiative in August 2021, which focuses on upskilling 900-plus female entrepreneurs, managers and truck drivers in the logistics, transport and supply chain sector by way of fully funded candidacy programmes. Our direct contribution includes sponsoring two branded truck trailers, a user-friendly learning platform, recognition of top performers of the candidacy programme, laptops for the training facility, female overalls, a photoshoot and student bags.

But it’s the social impact of our support for this initiative that will be the most far-reaching. For instance, we’ll link the programme’s eventual graduates to employers through our intangible customer and broker relationships. We will also avail our state-of-the-art telematics bureau to provide first-hand, on-site experience to the candidates. Furthermore, the bureau will provide a monitoring and reporting platform that will assist in building digital CVs for the female truck driver job candidates; we’re committed to adding valuable data to the field of driving behaviour, based on female truck drivers versus their male counterparts.

The transport sector is not a very glamorous sector in which to seek employment, and there are various challenges facing successful candidates. One such challenge is most obvious but has not improved in the slightest over the past few years, for either female or male truck drivers: there are not enough safe stops in South Africa. And the very few that do exist, do not cater to female truck drivers. Other challenges include health and safety concerns, security issues, sexual harassment and a change-resistant industry. Nonetheless, one step at a time, the various partners involved in this initiative are challenging these issues and putting forward unique solutions to them.

Importantly, the writers of this article, both female leaders in our organisation, are providing the female driver candidates with support through the CTA mentorship programme. But we’re taking

things a step further and putting ourselves in their shoes, having both applied for our own truck learner’s licences. Understanding their reality better helps us to create those better futures for them.

On 27 August 2021, we joined USAID, Volvo Trucks South Africa, Standard Bank, Onelogix Trucklogix, Afritt and various other sponsors for the unveiling of the training vehicle for the truck driving candidates at CTA’s premises in Kempton Park. This event opened the hearts, of all involved, to the positive energy that these female truck drivers embody in the face of difficult circumstances: from raising their children over the phone to giving up many aspects of their personal lives, as they lead the way in changing a grossly unrepresentative sector.
They have a long, difficult road ahead of them, of that there is little doubt; much needs to be done about changing old-fashioned, sexist attitudes, ensuring safe stops, and creating working conditions conducive to both female and male drivers. But change is coming and the inevitable resistance will be futile. For us, we’ll know we got it right when women truck drivers not only enter Hollard Highway Heroes, but they start winning it.