2018 category winner trumps 3 000+ competitors for R100 000 grand prize

Last year, Maartin Langeveld came within a whisker of winning the richest prize in South African trucking. This year, against even greater odds, he proved that he is this country’s most skilful truck driver.

At a glittering function at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park, Langeveld, a driver for Kuruman-based Swannies Spoed Vervoer, was named the overall Hollard Highway Hero for 2019.

“I told my employer, ‘We’re going to do it this year,’” a beaming Langeveld said after being announced as the 2019 Highway Hero. “And when I made the top 50, there was no turning back.”

Langeveld said he planned to use his R100 000 prize money on renovating his home in Kimberley.

Hollard Highway Heroes is a competition run by Hollard Trucking, a division of Hollard Insure, to identify and richly reward the best truck drivers in the country.

Participants compete in four categories – Tippers, Tautliners, Tankers and Flat Decks – with the category winners ultimately facing off for the grand prize of R100 000. Category winners take home R25 000 each, with the rest of the top 50 drivers also pocketing prize money according to the position they achieved.

Tougher and tougher competition

But winning doesn’t come easy. Once they’ve been selected for the top 50, these competitors are strictly monitored using telematics for 45 gruelling days by Hollard Trucking’s Risk Services Bureau, against the parameters of speed, harsh braking, fatigue driving (day), fatigue driving (night) and distance travelled.

Making this year’s Highway Heroes even more competitive is that for the first time it was open to all truck drivers, irrespective of their insurer (previously, only Hollard customers’ drivers could enter). A total of 3 153 drivers put up their hands – more than twice the number in 2018, and only 60 shy of the combined 3 213 entries between 2015 and 2018.

For the first time Hollard Highway Heroes has industry sponsors, too: coming on board this year as sponsors are the Fidelity SecureDrive, the Transport Sector Retirement Fund and Ctrack. The competition has also partnered with Arrive Alive, FleetWatch magazine and MasterDrive.

“Hollard Highway Heroes has grown exponentially since its inception in 2015, when only 220 drivers entered, and with that the competition has only become tougher,” says Elka du Piesanie, the Highway Heroes manager.

“This, coupled with the fact that two previous Highway Heroes – 2015 winner Themba Vilakazi, who made his fourth appearance in the top 10, and 2017 winner Phillip Mthembu – were again in the running this year, makes Maartin’s win all the more significant. Hearty congratulations, Maartin!”

Langeveld, who won the Tautliners category in 2018 but was pipped in a tight contest to the top honours by tanker driver Stephen Meje, took the category again this year. But 2019 is his year, and he edged out the other category winners:

·             Tippers: Abraham Motlhoboga Lekgari
·             Tankers: Steven Mbongiseni Ndlovu
·             Flat Decks: Themba Vilakazi

Better futures for all

Du Piesanie points out, however, that Hollard Highway Heroes was opened to all truck drivers this year not so much to increase competition, but to magnify the overall benefits that it affords every road user.

“We all know that more than 14 000 people die tragically on our roads every year. Quite apart from the business benefit of there being fewer accidents involving trucks, and therefore fewer insurance claims, the great beauty of Hollard Highway Heroes is that it actively promotes greater road safety.

“In fact, we’ve recorded a 64% in-competition improvement in driving – and because we monitor many of the entrants out of competition, too, we know that they maintain their good driving habits throughout the year. Not only that, they also have a positive influence on their non-competing colleagues,” she states.

Du Piesanie continues that the new Highway Heroes-linked Hollard Risk Services Loyalty Card, which pays out twice-monthly cash rewards to telematics-monitored drivers for driving well, also encourages good driving out of competition. In fact, five of the top 10 drivers for 2019 are loyalty cardholders.

“Hollard’s business purpose is called Better Futures. It binds us to create and secure better futures for more people in everything we do, and how we do it. I am so proud to say that Highway Heroes does exactly that: it creates better futures for our competition winners and their families, their employers, and you, me and everyone else on our roads,” Du Piesanie adds.

Just as jubilant about Langeveld’s win is his employer, Ben Swanepoel of Swannies Spoed Vervoer.

“I think it’s really a privilege for us to employ Maartin,” Swanepoel said. “He’s an example for everyone here [at the winner event], and at the company.”