South Shields lorry driver takes specialist skills 7,000 miles from Washington company base to Africa

A South Shields lorry driver has returned from a trip of a lifetime to Africa where he’s been sharing his professional expertise with local drivers to improve safety and quality of life within the community.

Monday, 5th August 2019, 12:00 am
Updated Monday, 5th August 2019, 11:54 am
Will Robertson and Paul Hughes, with their cohort of driver trainers at the NIT (National Institute of Transport) centre in Tanzania

Will Robertson, a driver trainer at Fowler Welch in Washington, leapt at the chance to travel 7,000 miles to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania as part of the logistics provider’s partnership with charity Transaid.

He took to the skies – and then the roads – with colleague Paul Hughes, who works at Fowler Welch’s Nuneaton premises in the Midlands.

Transaid works with local communities, governments, donors and organisations to improve professional driver training, transport management systems and rural access to transport.

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The importance of Transaid’s work cannot be underestimated. Drivers in African countries do not have access to the same training as those in the UK, who undergo rigorous tuition to ensure the highest safety standards.

The results can be devastating: road deaths in sub-Saharan Africa are the third biggest killer behind HIV/AIDS and malaria, while around 75% of maternal deaths could be avoided through timely access to vital childbirth-related care.

Fowler Welch was eager to help in a way that went beyond just raising money, by sharing skills and resources.

Will said: “The driver trainers we met were much more professional compared to other road users. They always travelled at the correct speed and did a really great job of staying calm in spite of the fact everyone else around them was beeping their horns and shouting.”

Will was selected for the Tanzania trip after winning the Fowler Welch Driver of the Year competition in 2018, while Paul was selected by a colleague who was aware of his numerous training qualifications.

Dad-of-three Paul said: “I’m a great believer that challenges which take you out of your comfort zone help you to develop as a person, so I was looking forward to the road ahead.”

The ultimate goal of the trip was not simply to make the group better drivers. It was to pass on training skills that would enable the students to train other professional drivers.