By Arend du Preez, CEO of Crossroads
The novel coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly had an enormous impact on all businesses. Many struggled to adapt while others immediately rose to the challenges, both health and business.
We recognised early the health risks that this would pose to our people. But we also realised that there would be enormous risks to the business that would only compound the longer it took us to respond. The results could be catastrophic not just to our business but also to all our employees.
We created a COVID-19 response team early in March and met daily as we forged safety measures for what was an entirely unknown situation for us and the world. Everyone was making it up as they went, we were operating blind. But some were worse off because they hadn’t even begun to respond.
Consequently, our exco was already discussing the implications of a lockdown at the beginning of March and even scenarios for an extended period of isolation. Our IT team was also able to anticipate a number of scenarios and they prepared us to continue operations uninterrupted.
By the middle of March our personnel were all using hospital-grade sanitisers and were all issued additional PPE equipment for their safety.
Communications were vital. The situation was changing so quickly that it was different from the morning to the afternoon. We set up a dedicated WhatsApp group that has proven to be immensely successful in ensuring everyone had the latest information and, more importantly in an era of fake news, a means to verify information. Some of our drivers operate across borders but the WhatsApp group meant we could keep them in touch at all times.
During the lockdown, particularly the early stages, the Road Freight Association led by Gavin Kelly, the CEO, provided Crossroads and the whole industry with invaluable information and guidance. Their ability to engage with government and labour is a huge advantage. Our early preparations notwithstanding, had it not been for the Road Freight Association the industry would have faced a lot more turmoil than we did.
We had to change other processes too. We already operate with the some of the most stringent regulations in the country, but we had to improve them even further by sanitising our vehicles as they arrived at depots.
We’re a registered essential services provider. Besides the general freight, closed circuit supply chain, and optimised value chain services, a large portion of our business is fuel and bulk liquids throughout South Africa and SADC countries.
We have been working with limited personnel during lockdown. Office and non-essential people work remotely where possible. They’re the conduit to serving our customers who are essential service providers themselves ensuring that the economy keeps ticking over.
We’ll keep operating as long as lockdown continues – and beyond – without interruption because we acted early and quickly. It was absolutely crucial to us and our essential services customers in South Africa and the SADC countries that our drivers and other operations people have been looked after and that we have been able to rapidly adapt our business processes.
It also means that our people have continued to earn an income when many across the country, even the world, have been sent home without work, without an income, during a very uncertain and difficult time. Our people are safe on the road, they’re looked after when they cross borders and return, and their livelihoods have been protected.
No matter what happens, we will continue to endeavour to follow the excellent and proactive example set by President Cyril Ramaphosa and his team.