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An empowering partnership

UNITRANS Africa Namibia empowers females through partnership with Walvis Bay Salt

 After eight months of intensive training, Uli Nuule can proudly claim to be the first female truck driver at Unitrans Africa Namibia qualified to transport bulk loads by road. She is one of 795 female hopefuls who in 2021 applied for the vacancy specifically targeting women, and the only one of two females who were selected to successfully complete the training program. 

“As there is no women representation in hazardous goods transportation, Unitrans Africa Namibia made a conscious decision to start changing the culture of this male dominated industry and to invest in training female driver,” says GM Phil Henning. 

Originally a firefighter by profession, Nuule wants to inspire her fellow females through this achievement: “We cannot be undermined by the perception that women cannot do certain jobs. Don’t hold back in reaching for your dreams,” Nuule says. She also wants to change the perception that truck drivers are uneducated. “I had to go through tough training to qualify for this job and had to achieve an average of more than eighty percent,” she adds. 

During August, celebrated as Women’s Month, Nuule proudly joined her male colleagues in transporting bulk salt to the port of Walvis Bay. Thanks to the transport partnership between Walvis Bay Salt and Unitrans Africa Namibia, Nuule can now set her eyes on racking up the hours to achieve her dream of driving bulk fuel tankers long distance in a few years’ time. 

Unitrans Africa is known for the reliable movement of products throughout Africa, focusing its Namibian operations on the bulk transportation of fuel and mining transportation of bulk salt for Walvis Bay Salt.

The short distance transportation of salt to the port of Walvis Bay is ideal as it requires skilled driving over short distances with frequent loading and off-loading. Although salt is not hazardous goods, the transportation of the cargo from the salt mine to the port of Walvis Bay demands the highest level of social and safety awareness. 

 The challenge for females, or any person for that matter, who wishes to pursue a career in the transportation of hazardous goods, is that specialised training and extensive experience is required, hence only skilled drivers are normally considered for the job. 

“As a company, we are extremely proud of Nuule for her dedication and perseverance in completing the rigorous in-house theoretical and practical training,” says Henning. He explains that this included nearly 37 hours of driving time in preparation for her Code CE license test. Due to the high standard and difficulty of the test, the chance of success on the first attempt is about 15%. Nuule’s fifth attempt was successful. She however still needs three years of driving experience before she will be fully qualified to drive bulk fuel tankers. 

After obtaining her Code CE license in June 2022, Nuule still had to go through Unitrans Africa Namibia’s defensive driving training and evaluation program before being certified to drive independently. This included nearly 145 hours of co-driving, covering a distance of 4 300km, during which time she was evaluated on a number of levels, including general driving skills, risk assessment and safety, turning skills, loading/off-loading skills, speed, gear ratio, to name but a few. The total investment by Unitrans Africa Namibia to fully qualify Nuule as a bulk load truck driver is N$166,000.00.

“As far as our mining operations are concerned, the salt road is one of our biggest safety risks. The intense training and high safety standards maintained by Unitrans Africa Namibia’s drivers is one of the reasons we have partnered with the company,” says Walvis Bay Salt’s Managing Director Andre Snyman. “Congratulations to Unitrans Africa for this initiative, and particularly to Uli Nuule. We wish her many thousands of safe kilometres and all the success with her achieving her dream of becoming a fully qualified hazardous goods truck driver,” Snyman adds. 

Walvis Bay Salt, through its various subsidiaries, is the largest producer of solar sea salt in sub-Saharan Africa. The company transports annually in the order of 600 000 tons of processed salt to the port of Walvis Bay for exports to various markets internationally.


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