Sun | Dec 8, 2019

Growth & Jobs | Trucking subsector growing ... But support needed for some operators

Published:Tuesday | November 19, 2019 | 12:14 AM
John Ralston (right), managing director, Tank-Weld Equipment, shows a SHACMAN truck to Naomi Dawkins, managing director, Conveyance Partners JA Limited, and Curtis Martin, managing director, JN Bank. Ralston indicates that several Jamaicans residing overseas have been purchasing the trucks as gifts for persons locally.

It seems that some Jamaicans living overseas are now looking into the local trucking ­industry as a more sustainable means of contributing to the development of their family and friends in Jamaica.

John Ralston, managing director of Tank-Weld Equipment Limited, dealers of SHACMAN heavy-duty trucks in Jamaica, says his company has seen evidence of this trend. He noted that instead of sending remittances home, some are covering the deposit for the purchase of trucks.

“We are receiving funds via wire transfers from family and friends and loved ones in the States for the deposit on trucks,” he explained. “So what Jamaicans in the diaspora are saying is, here is a way I can help my family member. I can give him or her a deposit; and he now becomes a businessman,” he explained.

All the recipient of the truck needs to do is to pay the remainder of the financing, which they can access through JN Bank. The bank offers up to 90 per cent financing on heavy-duty vehicles, at single-digit rates, for up to seven years.

And, given that many companies are seeking to hire contractors, the industry appears to be lucrative.

“For example, a man will come in and purchase an 11-tonne box truck; receiving a contract from a company like Wisynco, he is now a contractor for Wisynco. One truck leads to two, and, shortly, he becomes a fleet owner.

“We are seeing a number of ­people who have been laid off, and have taken their redundancy payment and paid down on a truck, financing the rest from the bank, and they are now ­businessmen,” he adds.

COMPETITIVE SECTOR

Although she has not studied the ­reasons for the growing number of people who are now truckers, Judith Williams Sharpe, director of the All-island Truckers’ Association, acknowledges that there has been an influx of persons into the subsector, which has led to it becoming competitive.

“We have never seen this before. There are hundreds of persons who popped up in the last few years, because it’s one of the ­easiest industries to get into,” she says.

She notes that although ­established trucking companies and contractors do well, there are some individual contractors who are not as fortunate.

To support the subsector, she is calling for the implementation of a base pay for truckers.

“What we need is a minimum trucking rate in Jamaica. We have requested it and it has been ­discussed, but it has gone nowhere,” she says, pointing out that talks have been held with government and private-sector bodies.

Williams Sharpe says the lack of a base rate for truckers could eventually lead to road hazards, as some desperate truckers may force their lorries to perform beyond what it can, without the means to properly maintain the vehicles.

“It affects the operation of the truck and the care of the truck, and that contributes to a lot of the accidents we are having on the roads,” she contends.

Beyond a better rate, however, she believes some truckers could benefit from business training to help with sustainability. However, she acknowledges that while this is true for some, many truck owners are professionals, who treat the business as another source of income.

“There are many truckers who are professionals and business owners. The belief that all ­truckers are uneducated is not as widespread,” she concludes.