Efficient taxi driver set on a road to a transport empire

Jabulani Hlophe’s outstanding service while he was a taxi driver has paid off in a big way by launching him into becoming a prospering transport service provider of a captive market.

Hlophe captured the attention of Woolworths while he was ferrying store employees from and to work on ad hoc basis in KwaZulu-Natal. A need by Woolworths to regularize the reliability of Hlophe’s service met with the group’s enterprise development objectives to produce assistance which would launch Hlophe into owning a fleet of 18 vehicles.

The assistance to Hlophe’s entity JMH Transport came via cooperation of three corporate entities, Woolworths, Imperial Logistics and Mercedes-Benz. JMH Transport has a 50% black woman ownership via Hlophe’s wife, who manages administration.

Imperial Logistics chief integration officer Cobus Rossouw said his company saw an excellent enterprise development opportunity in the Hlophe/Woolworths affair.

Rossouw explains that “As part of its Enterprise Development Programme, Woolworths began working with Hlophe to develop an alternative, centralised staff transportation system which would decrease the distance and time travelled by each employee when they go home late at night”.

Hlophe was one of the exceptional taxi drivers transporting some store employees in KwaZulu-Natal home each night after dark. It was his excellent and reliable service that made Jabulani the obvious choice when a Woolworths procurement manager came to rethink the transport available to store staff and identify a service provider to pilot a more efficient system,” said Rossouw.

A loan of R3.3million, financed through the Woolworths Enterprise Development programme, with further support from Mercedes-Benz, helped Hlophe purchase his fleet of vehicles. “This fleet regularly loops 15 collection points (14 stores and the distribution centre), collecting staff and dropping them off at a central point, where they hop onto another taxi to take them home,” said Rossouw.

Imperial Logistics brought to the affair its subsidiaries Resolve and Imperial Fast ‘n Fresh. “The contribution made to the project by Resolve and Imperial Fast ‘n Fresh included facilitating the relationship between Mercedes Benz commercial vehicles East Rand and Woolworths, for the supply at fleet discounted rates of the Mercedes Benz Sprinters, and developing the most efficient routing system for Hlophe’s fledging business, JMH Transport”.

Resolve’s brief was to support JMH Transport in establishing the most effective set of collection and drop off routes for its 18 vehicle fleet. We completed a ‘Travelling Salesman’ Calculation,” said Rossouw.

“This calculated the distances between points visited and compares various route options until the shortest travel distance is achieved. The result has been an optimised routing schedule for JMH which can be used on a daily basis to support reduced travel time and distance while maintaining a superior service. The distance and time travelled by each employee has decreased significantly, ensuring that they get home to their families sooner at night. Employee morale has increased so much that participating stores have encouraged other stores to enquire and sign up.”

“Since JMH Transport started operating, Jabulani has been able to employ 28 people,” said Rossouw. A further benefit, he says, is that with the incentive of driving Mercedes-Benz sprinters, absenteeism of drivers has reduced.

The new system has also helped reduce costs to Woolworths as well as decreasing the company’s environmental impact by reducing kilometres travelled, added Rossouw.

“This is a great example of the importance and added value in strategically partnering with existing service providers like Mercedes-Benz and Imperial Logistics. This is a pilot project for Woolworths, with huge opportunity to grow in the future, not only within KwaZulu-Natal, but across the country, to eventually service all Woolworths store employees”.

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