Nduna Chari is the epitome of the ideal truck driver. And he has the trophies to prove it.
The 42-year old father of two who has steadily climbed the career ladder from tip truck driver to driver trainer in just a decade attributes his success to two vital qualities: his passion and his patience.
Between 2006 and 2011, Nduna worked for several small transport companies in Durban until he joined Manline in March 2011.
After undergoing the obligatory two weeks of training to familiarise himself with Manline’s high operating standards, Nduna got behind the wheel as a cross-border driver, travelling to Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique.
He recalls that when he joined Manline, he was asked to fill a form stating where he saw himself in five years’ time in terms of his career.
“I indicated that I wanted to be a top driver within two years,” said Nduna.
And true to his word, soon after joining Manline he began bagging award after award.
In 2011, he was chosen New Driver of the Year. In 2012, he was placed second as Driver of the Year. In 2013, 2014 and 2015, he came first as Driver of the Year from 140 drivers employed by Manline.
Drivers are judged against the results of state-of-the-art monitoring systems such as DriveSmart and DriveCam which record the driving times, breaks and rest periods, vehicle speed, distance travelled, engine revs and other related metrics.
When asked how he managed to clinch the Driver of the Year position for three successive years, Nduna said he was consistent, which is “part of my culture”.
“I have a passion for my job. In addition, I exercise a tremendous amount of patience which is important to ensure the safety of all road users, the vehicle and the goods being tranported.”
As testament to his prowess as a professional truck driver, in September 2015 Nduna was chosen by MAN Truck & Bus SA to steer the new Euro 5 MAN TGX 26.540 6×4 EfficientLine on its maiden six-week voyage across nine African countries, crossing 11 border posts, and covering a total distance of 13 234 kms.
Piloting the TGX in the “One MAN Kann” odyssey, Nduna enjoyed the company of one of the world’s leading adventurers, Riaan Manser, who regaled him with stories about his various explorations.
Riaan was the first person to cycle around the perimeter of Africa, pedaling a staggering 37 000 km through 34 countries between 2003 and 2005.
He has also climbed Mt Kilimanjaro and descended to Lake Assal, the highest and lowest points on the African continent.
On seeing Riaan’s story on television, former President Nelson Mandela personally requested a meeting with him, saying it was “a performance that will inspire the youth of the continent”.
The “ONE MAN kann” journey which commenced in Pinetown on 8 September 2015 and ended in Pretoria on 30 October 2015 highlighted the challenges of cross-border transport in Africa, including long delays at border crossings, dodging potholes on crumbling roads and encountering military road blocks.
The journey took the TGX to MAN’s dealerships and partner fuel suppliers across the region, and using MAN TeleMatics, the truck was constantly monitored for benchmarking purposes.
The mission also achieved a charitable purpose through the delivery of mosquito nets and anti-malaria prophylactics to several impoverished communities along the long and arduous route.
Nduna said while long-haul driving demanded total attention, the breathtaking beauty of the African landscape was a welcome diversion from the boredom that could set in during a long and arduous journey.
Upon his return from the “ONE MAN kann” journey, Nduna was offered a job as a driver trainer at Manline in recognition of his consistent performance throughout his career and for being an ambassador for the organisation and a role model for other drivers within the business.
Displaying his characteristic humility, Nduna said he enjoys imparting his knowledge to young drivers.
“Good drivers can make a valuable contribution to the company as well as the country at large.”
He credits Manline management for creating a real sense of personal investment in employees.
“The company has been good to me and hence I feel motivated to do my best, every day.”
In his spare time, Nduna enjoys scenic drives and watching sport. He harbours an ambition to open his own driver training school one day.