Stakeholders in Nigeria’s Haulage Sector Need to Partner Government to Chart New Growth Path
DAYO BELLO, MD, Innovative Logistics and Transport Ltd
The managing director, Innovative Logistics and Transport Ltd, DAYO BELLO, is indeed, a man of many parts. He has his hands in many ventures and has succeeded in most of them. He started his haulage company with just one truck many years back and today, the company has grown exponentially. His haulage company, which now hauls for Intercontinental Distilleries in Ota, had worked with so many companies like the Honeywell group, Berger Paint Plc among others.
Bello, an indigene of Ijebu Ishiwo, in Ogun state is a graduate of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, in this interview with BAYO AMODU, editor, Haulage & Logistics magazine, revealed some of the challenges confronting haulage business in the country and how the stakeholders in the sector can partner with the government to tackle the problems. Enjoy the excerpts:
Sir, from your experience in this business, what do you consider as the challenges confronting the sector?
Thank you very much for the question. Truck drivers are the major challenge in this business. These people, apart from using their employers’ vehicles to do illegal haulage, some of them will even steal diesel they are meant to use for official business or even sell the goods they are sent to deliver at some particular destinations. Some of them because of their inexperience can damage the vehicle and caused accident. Talking about damaging vehicles, that is common to those who ply nights. My trucks don’t move at night. If you see any of my trucks moving at night, it is at the risk of the driver. My insurance don’t cover the driver at night, so why moving at night.
Sir, many haulage companies are complaining that drivers engage in illegal haulage activities while on trips, how true is this?
I must be frank with you, the business is drivers’ business; we are just investors. Really, that is what most of them do. After taking goods to a destination on behalf of their bosses, they do their own private things when they are coming back. Initially, some organizations don’t care whether the drivers do their own private business when returning from a trip. However, as a result of havocs they cause for the employers, most companies now forbid them from carrying goods when they are coming back. I had to put in the agreement with my drivers that my trucks must not carry anything while they are coming back. I will give you fuel for the journey and pay you your money.
Let me give you an instance, there was a time one of my drivers carried contraband goods and was arrested by Customs. I was the one responsible for solving the problem. It was a very nasty experience and the driver did not care. Immediately he caused the problem, he started looking for another job, so it became my headache. I had another driver that whenever he comes back from a trip, I must carry out one repair or the other on the vehicle. Such is common to those drivers that use truck to do illegal haulage. It is not encouraging at all to investors; many are even running away from the business because of the ugly development. We are looking at a solution that would work for everybody and that is having drivers’ data base. This is important because drivers believe that whatever they have done, they don’t have any record anywhere. If we have a data base, any driver that has done something wrong, we can put it there so that any prospective employer will look at whether he can manage him or not. As it is now, if you sack any driver, he writes application to another company almost immediately and when they asked him why he wants to leave, what most of them usually say during interview is that they are leaving because of poor management of trucks.
Trucks drivers have always complain of extortion by security agencies, touts and some so called local government officials who sells unauthorized emblems to them especially in the South East part of the country, what has been the effect of this on the activities of haulage companies?
This is one of the numerous problems we have in this country. This is even beyond what the drivers can tackle even if they have all their papers complete. Yes, there is extortion and situation whereby truck operators were being overtaxed by the State or local government and there is no tax refund. There was a group that came and said they wanted to fight the menace on behalf of trucks operators. The truth is that you cannot fight government. If it is the government that put them there, the stakeholders can come together and meet the government and say how do we address the issue. If we find out that there are some unauthorized people on the road collecting money which is very possible, by the time we have met with the government, I mean the stakeholders, we should be able to know the fake ones. Such collective effort is needed.
Let me give you an instance, there was a time in the advertising industry that before you can erect a billboard, you pay to different kinds of people. But, Lagos State government came up with Lagos State Signage & Advertisement Agency (LASAA) although it is more expensive, you just only need to pay at once. The government can come up with a joint body to collect the revenue as most of the due are for the local government. It could even be only one paper that they can vet electronically; getting multiple papers is just a waste of time. The most important thing is for the stakeholders to meet with the government and provide solutions to all these problems and chart a new growth path for the industry.
The haulage sector is often perceived as an all-comers affair, how as this been affecting the quality of services in the industry?
Do we even have stakeholders? We don’t have stakeholders. I think one platform that can bring us together in this industry is the haulage and Logistics magazine. The haulage sector is a big one and I think the real investors in the sector should come together and discuss things that can bring progress.
So what aspect of the sector should have improved presently?
Well, it’s not that we have not seen improvements at all. But the aspect I believe many people in the industry would like to see more improvements is in funding. Many have been complaining that banks don’t fund haulage business. Banks won’t invest in an industry where projection of profits to be made cannot be made ahead, an industry where there is no data base of drivers or stakeholders .The banks know that in this in industry, drivers are the problem.
I cannot blame the banks because the industry is not well regulated. We have seen situation where some money bags brings in money into the business only to see the business fail after a short time. Another thing that kills haulage business in this country is lack of competent managers. Somebody that will manage haulage must have a large heart because of the challenges in managing the drivers.
So how does a business contract between haulage companies and multinationals work in Nigeria?
The multinationals need the haulage company but most of us don’t know the nitty-gritty of this business before going into it. I think the ideal thing is to ensure that the multinational sign a country that will tell whether within a specified period of time whether your truck works or not, they are going to pay you provided you provide the trucks for them.