Transporting the resource markets

In order to be of value, resources and commodities need get from A to B. If you are looking for a partner in transportation with the experience and agility to handle heavy loads in a professional manner, then who better to call upon than logistics experts Du Plessis Sand.

Starting with just a single truck more than 30 years ago, Du Plessis Sand has grown into one of southern Africa’s leading suppliers of professional transport and logistics services.

“The company was started by my father in 1979 and back then we only used to transport building materials for the construction industry,” says Du Plessis Sand managing director Andre Du Plessis.

In 2000 the company began diversifying into markets outside construction and by doing so changed the core focus of the business to the transportation of commodities.

Whether it’s coal, fertilizer, hazardous products, steel shavings, chrome or glass the Du Plessis Sand’s team will be able to supply the professional transport service.

“At the turn of the millennium the construction market was in decline,” notes Du Plessis. “So we entered into the export commodities market and started to focus on the transportation side of these industries.

“Today, sand and stone probably accounts for less than five per cent of our turnover,” he adds.

According to Du Plessis the company operates 65 large rigs across the country.

“As we mainly cover commodities, we have to go to wherever the materials are mined,” he says. “While we’re not too active in the Cape Province we do cross borders, but we’re focused on the inland market and running exports to the coastal areas.”

Staying strong despite the storm

Although the recession hit many industries hard across South Africa, Du Plessis Sand has been able to weather the storm and continue to perform well in a less dynamic market place.

“The market has picked up following the crisis we had in 2009,” says Du Plessis. “Since last year it’s really picked up quite well.

“We did suffer from a little slump in the chrome industry, as exports in that market dropped quite significantly, but at this point in time it has stabilised and things are now looking positive.”

While the company finds itself in a relatively comfortable financial position with close to 95 per cent of its assets paid off, Du Plessis says it is currently consolidating its interests in order to avoid any possible fallout from the current precarious political situation.

“We don’t have many loans or finance deals to pay off and we always work to try to minimise any potential pressure,” he explains.

“The political situation is a bit of a problem for us because at the moment it is very volatile.

“We’ve decided to sit back for a while and see in which direction things will run — especially because there has been a lot of talk regarding the nationalisation of mines, which would have a huge impact on us,” he remarks.

“But we remain positive and very hopeful that all will be well; but in the event that the market does suffer because of the political situation, we’ll be able to see it though.”

Aside from politics, working in South Africa’s tough transportation business can prove demanding, but Du Plessis Sand has been able to stay ahead of a crowded field.

“There are a lot of newcomers in our market and we are constantly coming across competitors who have cut prices without understanding why they’re doing it,” says Du Plessis. “They tend to only see the direct costs, such as the cost of capital, drivers, fuel and so on, and forget about the maintenance side of things.
“It is important to keep your vehicles in good condition otherwise they will be worthless when finish you paying the capital on them,” he adds.

Du Plessis Sand has an onsite workshop and employs close to 20 mechanics who maintain the hard-worked vehicles.

“We have the facilities to refurbish, sandblast or spray the vehicles, and it is set up so that we are totally self-reliant and minimise any third-party contact,” says Du Plessis.

Through its in-house maintenance facility the company is able to tend to any problems in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

Sharing the knowledge

Du Plessis says that while the supply of drivers and operators is strong in South Africa, a major problem lies in the quality of potential employees. In order to address this issue Du Plessis Sand has set up a driver’s academy.

“We take young guys and we train them from the ground up,” he explains. “We help them to get their learners licence and, at the end of the day, their heavy-drivers licence.

Young drivers enter the academy for a period of three years and are taught by full-time experienced trainers and lecturers.

“They learn a whole load of practical theory, a little bit of mechanics, some health and safety and other things that make up the role of driver,” remarks Du Plessis. “It’s not just about driving the vehicle — it goes beyond that.”

As well as helping young people get ahead in life, Du Plessis Sand has partnered with Consol Glass to carry out a green initiative.

“We have partnered up with Consol to collect recyclable glass on a national basis,” explains Du Plessis. “We are identifying people within communities and setting them up with all the relevant equipment and training they need to collect local glass. We supply the logistics to get this glass from these people to Consol at no cost.”

With a strong educational system in place for its employees, an evident commitment to the environment and a successful business model in place, Du Plessis Sand is clearly taking the initiative within the logistics industry.