The sorry tale of Nigerian truck drivers: Implications for the haulage industry

By Ranmilowo Ojalumo

One major element that haulage operators in Nigeria have pointed finger at to have constituted the biggest problem to haulage business in Nigeria is THE DRIVER; yet the driver is the most important element next to the owner of every haulage business not only in Nigeria but across the globe. It is however disheartening that as important as the drivers are to haulage business, they are never accorded their importance in Nigeria and they are not well remunerated; whereas, every truck driver deserves good working condition.

A nigerian truck driver: courtesy -cnn

As a matter of fact, the action and inaction of the driver can make or mar any haulage business simply because the trucks and the goods that happen to be the only asset of every haulage business is in the hand of the driver.
In Nigeria for instance, as of the time of filling this report, a brand new Chinese truck head (tractor) goes between N20 and N25 Million. The other part of the truck on the other hand goes for as much as N6 million, so altogether, a complete brand new truck (Chinese) may cost about N30million.

Apart from the truck itself that cost several millions of naira, the goods the truck carries on the other hand also involves huge amount, usually in millions of naira. For instance, the minimum capacity of every petroleum tanker is 33,000 litres. If 33,000 is multiplied by N145.00, it means an average petroleum tanker carries goods worth about N5million. Adding the value of the goods to the monetary value of the truck means the driver has with him about N40million.

In view of the huge amount entrusted in the hand of the driver, they are supposed to be well taken care of. Their welfare is supposed to be an utmost priority to every haulage company. Every manufacturer is supposed to put measure in place to ensure that the drivers are well taken care of. The haulage industry as a whole is supposed to take the welfare of the truck drivers as number one priority.

In view of the indispensability of the truck driver to the nation’s economy, the Nigerian Ministry of Transport or Labour, like their counterpart in UK and America is supposed to put measure in place that will spell out good welfare package for the truck drivers in the country.

Unfortunately, the reverse is the case. Haulage & Logistics Magazine’s findings have revealed that the standard of living of many Nigerian truck drivers is poor and there is no welfare package for them. Haulage & Logistics Magazines’ investigations show that the drivers are poorly paid and they are not covered by insurance unlike their counterpart in UK and America who enjoy insurance cover and handsomely paid.

Facts obtained from independent findings by Haulage & Logistics Magazine show that Nigerian truck drivers received an average paltry salary of N30, 000 per month. Many truck owners on the other hand simply calculate the likely cost of fuel per trip and then add a markup of up to N10, 000 out of which the driver will eat and settle the uniform men on the road and also settle the conductor.

What even worsens the truck drivers’ condition is the monstrous traffic in Lagos, especially in and around Apapa. Haulage and Logistics findings show that some trucks that want to access the port spend as much as five days on the road before gaining access to the port. Some tanker drivers who want to load at petroleum tank farm on the other hand also spend as much as five days or more on the road before gaining access to the farm to load. Unfortunately, some of the trucks don’t even have sleeper where the driver can sleep.

The Managing Director of Eternity Services Ltd., who is also the Chairman, National Association of Road Transport Owner (NARTO) Total Transporters’ Forum, Mr. Tunde Makun confirmed how the driver suffered on the road during an interview with Haulage & Logistics Magazine recently when he said “it takes two to three days to travel two kilometers from mile 2 to Ibafo and that is a journey that shouldn’t be more than five or 10 minutes; that is how bad the situation has degenerated”.

While responding to the questions put to him by Haulage & Logistics Magazine during the interview “…I am aware that some of the drivers are not well paid”, makun confirmed that the drivers are not well though for some reasons. In his response, Makun said “…Yes, that’s true because the business itself is also suffering. If the government deregulates, then we can begin to look at the true cost of this business.

While speaking during an interview with haulage & Logistics Magazine, a tanker driver who identified himself as Nurudeen but refused to mention his surname, to avoid being sanctioned by his boss lamented the poor condition of truckers in the country, saying he and some of his colleagues that are doing the same job are living from hand to mouth and working hard with nothing to show for it.

Nurudeen, who drives a 33,000 liters tanker for a petroleum marketing company with head office in Lagos and fuel stations in Lagos and Ibadan, said “working as a truck or tanker driver is not encouraging in Nigeria at all. For instance, my boss is not paying me any salary. What he gives all of us that are driving his tanker is trip allowance. He normally gives us N25, 000 for a trip to Ibadan and out of the N25, 000, we would buy fuel, settle the uniform people and area boys on the road; at the end of the trip, we may have N5, 000 or N8, 000 left, because I will also settle my conductor”.

The tanker driver said from the day he received call to load, he usually spends between three and seven days on the road before he can load and come out of the loading point. “Our yard is at mile, but sometimes, we spend threes day on the road, sometimes four or even seven days depending on how the road is. Sometimes if the road is cleared on time, we may be fortunate to do two trips within Lagos in a week. The road is bad. There are some portions of the road that we cannot ply except if we don’t mind that the tanker falls which may be disastrous”.

“We sleep on the road, sometimes we rush to public toilet to take our birth and defecate during the day. Sometime, in the night, some miscreants and thief will attack us, and once we run away, they sometimes remove the battery of our truck; sometimes they carry our extra tyre away. It is a bitter experience for me and many of my colleagues, but we are still managing it because we don’t have other job to do for now”, Nurudeen said.

Narrating his ordeal in the hand of armed robbers on a fateful night on the road, another driver who identified himself as Jamiu, (A.K.A Germany) told Haulage and Logistics Magazine how armed robber burgled the container his truck carried at gun point at Orile- Ijora area of Lagos.

“I was coming from Ibafo, I load cashew nut to be dropped at the port for export but we always experience delay in Lagos before we can access the port. So, on the third day in the middle of the night at Orile –Ijora axis, armed robbers raided us at gun point. By the time they got to where my truck was, I and my conductor have to run away because of the gun shot.

“At the end of the day, they broke into the container and carted away the load. On the following day, I landed in police station but because I have been working for my boss for a very long time and he trusted me, he asked the police to release me”, Jamiu said. He added that the reason he’s driving truck is because he doesn’t want his family to suffer and he can’t steal.

Also talking to haulage and Logistics Magazine, another truck driver, a 67 years old man who identified himself as Auwlu Inua, who drives a containerized truck for Belmoh United Limited, based in Kano, decried the level of extortion in and around Apapa before truck can access the port. He also decried what he call gross inefficiency of the APM terminal operator, asking government to intervene in the horrible situation that truck drivers are experiencing before they can access the port.

“I came all the way from Kano, I want to go and load at Apapa port. Before I can enter the port to load, from Fadeyi, sometime I spend seven to nine days. We sleep on the road, Sometimes armed robbers attacked us, sometimes in the middle of the night, they come and collect our phone, steal our vehicles’ battery”, Inua said.

When ask how much he earned, the 67 years old truck driver said “my salary is N30, 000 per month but my boss normally gives me trip allowance. Anytime I am coming to Lagos from Kano, he will give me N30, 000 as trip allowance. Out of the N30, 000; I will buy fuel, settle police on the road, settle different set of people within Apapa but at the end of the trip, I will still get something to eat. I will also settle my conductor out of the money because the conductor is not on salary”.

Another 26 years old truck driver who identified himself as Sunday corroborated Inua assertion when he said “I do spend five to seven days between Ojuelegba to the port. Sometimes we took our bath inside the empty container that we carry. We usually carry mat with us because we already knew we will sleep on the road, most likely from Ojuelegba”. He also disclosed that his salary is N30, 000 per month plus N5, 000 trip allowances out which he will settle the people in uniform and area boys in Apapa.

Haulage & Logistics Magazine made attempt to verify the claim of some of the drivers. All effort to speak with the executive member of the Petroleum Tanker Driver branch of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers (NUPENG) on the poor state of the tankers drivers proved abortive as of press. The manager of a popular haulage company that haul for one of the foremost manufacturers in the country, but never wants his mane to be mentioned, confirmed the development. He told Haulage & Logistics Magazine that his company and few other haulage companies where he has worked before are paying N30, 000 as basic salary. He also disclosed that his companies pay trip allowance of N5, 000 within South West and N10, 000 outside South West for settlement on the road.

In his word, the source said, “out of the trip allowance, the driver is expected to settle some people on the road and buy some minor tickets, so that at the end of the day, the driver will still have between N2, 000 or N3, 000 left. The number of trip the driver goes determines the amount he gets as allowance”.

He disclosed further that the reason the haulage companies prefer to pay trip allowance separate from the N30, 000 salaries is because of the truck down time. He said “the reason is because the months the truck did not work, the company will not pay much. The haulage companies are not really paying the drivers much and that is the way it is in almost every haulage company. Though there might be few haulage firms that pay just a little higher, but I have not really seen one company that pays higher anyway”.

Another source who never wants his name mention, who is also a Logistic and Transport Manager in a haulage company before he resign because of the ill treatment of staff at the company also confirmed that before he resigned, his company pay N30, 000 basic salary, N5, 000 and N10, 000 trip allowance for trip within South West and outside South West respectively. He however added that some manufacturing companies who haul their good themselves pay between N60, 000 and N70, 000 per month but no trip allowance.

While Nigerian truck drivers are working under poor condition and poor remuneration with salary less than N500, 000 per year; their counterpart in UK, American and other western countries are working under good condition, with mouth watery remuneration. For instance, information obtain through an American Truckers Association (ATA), salary estimate based on 1,197,241 salaries submitted anonymously to an American Independent institution-Indeed by Truck Driver employees and users; data collected from past and present job advertisements in the past 36 months, as well as website of some American haulage company show that the average salary for a truck driver is $78,194 per year in the United States and that is about N28. 2million per year and that is about N2.3million per month.

Outlook of the salary that 10 US trucking companies pay per year
C. R. England Truck driver- $85,112 per year, Western Express truck driver- $81,081 per year, Walmart Truck Driver-$78,337 per year, MClane Company truck driver -$69,173 per year, Sysco Truck Driver-$68,791 per year, US Xpress Truck Driver-$89,852 per year, The Dart Network Truck Driver-$155,654 per year, FedEx Ground Truck Driver-$68,739 per year, Crete Carrier Corporation Truck Driver-$69,182 per year, Crst Dedicated Truck Driver-$66,827 per year. Source respective company’s website, indeed.com, ATA

Although there may be some Truckers or haulage companies in Nigeria that give their drivers better working condition, there is no gainsaying in the fact that truck drivers in the country need to be well taken care of. The truck drivers deserve better working condition and better remuneration for many reasons. If the truck drivers are working under poor condition and not well paid, it will have negative effect on the industry and it will affect the country either directly or indirectly.

For instance, a driver that is not in good state of mind will not drive safe on the road. Also, in the past two years, many haulage companies in Nigeria have suffered colossal lose in the hand of truck drivers. Truck divert has become an order of the day. Many drivers did not just divert and sell off the goods they carry, some set the truck ablaze and disappeared into the thin air. Some also arrange with people and dismantle and sell the truck unit to make more money before running away. This may actually be one of the adverse effects of poor remuneration; whereas, a Nigerian truck driver who earn about N2 million per month, like his colleague in America will most likely not involve in the act of truck diversion.

As a matter of fact, if the criminal act of the drivers is completely curtailed in Nigerian haulage sector, then over 60% of the challenges that has been giving many haulage operators sleepless night would have been solved.

While there is no doubt about the fact that some employers of labour are not concern about the welfare of their workers, the many challenges bedeviling the Nigerian haulage sector may have made it difficult for many haulage operator to pay their driver huge salary.

This is the reason haulage operators and trucker owners in Nigeria must come together and approach the government to ensure that all the bottlenecks the truck drivers have been experiencing on the road and all difficulties in accessing the port or petroleum tank farm is removed.

Stakeholders need to as a matter of urgency come together and approach the government as a unit entity and present all the challenges that are ripping off their profit and make it impossible for them to pay their drivers very well.
Spending three to seven days from Ojuelegba to Apapa port is not only abnormal but a huge disgrace to Nigeria as a country. The effect of bad road can also not be completely removed from the ugly situation, but what is stopping the government from fixing the road? Enough of excuses and empty promises.

Again, why should port terminal operators not efficient? Why should shipping companies not having holding bays? These and many more are some of the issues that are indirectly affecting the haulage/trucking sector, rippling the operators off huge amount of money every day. Again, why should the people in uniform be extorting the truckers as if they are not collecting salary? All these abnormality must stop.

However, the problems may not stop unless haulage operators and all truck owners in the country come together and approach the government with resolution and make the government to see the importance of the trucking sector. Citing the case of the Brazilian truckers strike to the government may also be a good reference.

As the fulcrum of the haulage business industry, the Nigerian truck drivers must be handsomely paid. All truckers need to come together put measure in place through which truck drivers in the country can get better condition and better remuneration. This is the reason the truckers should make concerted effort to block everything that is draining their profit and disable them from paying the drivers well. The time for action is now.

,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *