Alhaji Isiaka Olalere is the chairman of the Road Transport Employers Association (RTEAN), Haulage section. He makes his twenty five years experience in the sector bare through this week’s edition of your education page, Shippers’ guide. He educates you on the best brand of truck that can last the test of time as well as how to take care of them to bring maximum turnover to the users. Get educated as you read on.
What state should your truck be before you will be allowed to lift container in the terminal?
You know, we have been talking about minimum standard, I think a truck must attain the minimum standard. It must have all the necessary things, the flag bed must be neat, the twist lock must be there, the tyre and all the other accessories like jack, wheel spanner and everything, all these ones are supposed to be there.
What special training do you give to drivers that lift container?
You know, driving container truck is something somebody must learn before coming into it, you see someone who has never been in container line before, you have to queue and learn how to do it because you cannot compare container carrier to wet cargo, that is, the tankers and if the container driver wants to go to tanker line he has to learn before going there. But we in the container line, we have been there for long, as you are looking at me, I was once a motor boy before I graduated to driver before I became owner and later, I became the leader of the transporters.
So, those are the things we need to learn. If anybody is coming as a motor boy now, he will start from learning how to lose tyre, how to look back for his master, how to put the hook in place before putting containers. Those are the jobs of the motor boys. The driver is to drive the vehicle, straighten the hook and put the container. If the twist lock is not okay, he will remove it and go and put the twist lock in order. Those are the things the driver does.
Most times some trucks carry containers and the containers fall off on the road; is it that the twist locks are not good enough or what do you think is responsible for such?
Bad road is responsible for all that, if twist lock is not good. If the containers want to fall, it is only the container that will just drop out of lorry and fall down, but if you see both the container and the lorry falling down, it is bad road that causes it. Most of those accidents are caused by bad roads. In the past, trucks normally fell down at the coconut axis on daily basis, but now that the road is in order now you can see that there is nothing like accident again so, most of the accidents of container is caused by bad road.
I want you to tell us about the different kinds of truck you are using, the different brands of truck and which you think is the best.
You know in truck business, age matters a lot, and especially now that the government is trying to phase all the old ones out, but we believe in all those old ones, like FIAT, those are the durable ones that one can maintain. If you start with one FIAT and God is behind you, within a short period you will become a rich man. Although we are having MACK now which is the latest in the town, but the old ones are more maintainable than the so-called new ones. But it is not affordable, for someone to have money to buy a new truck we will be talking about 20-30 million naira, but one can start from all these old ones but they may not be able to go beyond the west local. There are some areas we call west local like Ibadan, Ikeja, and other places, but the MACK can go as far as Sokoto, Kaduna, Maiduguri and it depends on how you can maintain them.
What is the life span of a truck?
A truck can work as long as 15-20 years if the owner can maintain it very well. Yes this entire FIAT we are using now, some are above 25 years. There is one truck I bought in 1991 as tokunbo (second hand), am still using it up till now. I bought it 1991 as tokunbo and it has been on use for almost 10 years before I bought it that time, am still using it up till now. So, there are some trucks you will see now, even the manufacture company cannot even know the years of manufacture. So it depends on how one can maintain the truck.
At what interval is it advisable to carry out maintenance on the trucks for it to be durable?
At least on monthly basis, do your service, change engine oil, change all the necessary things on monthly or once in two months, that is servicing and vehicle can develop problem at anytime, you can service now and as the vehicle is moving it can develop another fault. So you have to do it and make sure that the vehicle is in order every time.
Why is it that trucks problems even if they are new?
It depends on the makeup of such trucks; at least if you buy new truck, before you will change anything there, it will be after 5 years, but the servicing needs to be on monthly basis or two months interval, depending on the kilometer that the vehicle might have run. If a truck is now going to Kano, and it goes to Kano, 2,3, 4 times, you need to change the oil, service and change all the filters and everything. Then you put it back again and the vehicle will start.
How do you lift containers from the port?
Lifting of container from the port is very easy. What needed to be done is for the driver and the vehicle to be in good condition, one, to have this container hook, those four areas if it is twenty feet container and 8 if it is forty feet container, without that, containers cannot be loaded, if the hook is not okay the terminal operator will never put container on top of it, because it is not safe. These are the first issues. In the past, we usually entered inside port with driver and motor boy, but now is no longer like that, it’s only driver that enters now. It is only the driver that enters the terminal now; the motor boy will stay behind while the driver alone will go. And driver has to put on safety cap, and the reflecting jacket.
Why are the helmet and reflective jackets necessary?
Because putting on the cap will allow the operator that is driving the crane to see the driver and the reflective jacket will make everything reflective, may be at night or in the day time. So, those are the material the driver must put on before coming inside the port.