“My drivers have a big share in the company’s success”

Reading time: approx. 5 minutes
Text: Juliane Gringer
Photos: Heiko Matting Photography, private

Entrepreneur Ramona Sabelus is involved with her own association for professional drivers who have got into a difficult situation through no fault of their own: At “Trucker in Not” (Trucker in distress) they can apply for unbureaucratic financial help. Sabelus wants to give the drivers the appreciation they deserve for their important and demanding work.

“I have to do something for the drivers.” This thought has accompanied Ramona Sabelus for a long time. “Especially when they get sick, they are often left all alone,” says the managing director of RS MediTrans and Walter Schmidt Spedition from Wildau in Brandenburg. “I have experienced several examples that were really upsetting.” For example, one of her employees injured himself in a fall from the loading area. When he applied for a special seat for his vehicle so that he could continue to do his job without pain, the Employer’s Liability Insurance Association had initially “squirmed extremely” – and finally refused funding. “That really pissed me off,” the entrepreneur explains. “Let me be clear: these people drive their butts off on the road for all of us. They are on the road day and night. And then they are sometimes treated disparagingly at the ramps – that’s a disgrace. We mustn’t forget that drivers sit in state-of-the-art workplaces and simply do a very important job. I wanted to thank them for that.”

»Let me be clear, these people are driving their asses off on the road for all of us.«

Ramona Sabelus, initiator of Trucker in Not e. V.

Donations instead of gifts

As a freight forwarder, her company cannot function without her colleagues behind the wheel: “I alone cannot achieve anything with my ideas and my skills if I don’t have good drivers. The value of a company is not only determined by its size and turnover figures. Above all, the employees and the cooperation with the management are decisive. “A cleaner is not worth less than someone in management,” says Sabelus. A few years ago, she took a milestone birthday as an opportunity to make the idea of quick, unbureaucratic help for professional drivers a reality: she told all her well-wishers that she did not want any personal gifts and instead asked for donations for a relief project. This is how she was able to found the association “Trucker in Not” in 2015 with 2,000 euros in start-up capital.

The entrepreneur has been involved in voluntary work since the early 1990s, among other things as president of the Berlin and Brandenburg Transport Association (LBBV). The founding of “Trucker in Not” was therefore an obvious idea. “I was very pleased that many board members as well as friends and acquaintances decided to support the association. Membership also costs only 60 euros per year, which almost everyone can afford.” The association finances the aid from the membership and sponsorship fees. Drivers who find themselves in an emergency situation can apply: Grants of up to 500 euros are awarded for urgently needed aids. For example, “Trucker in Not” has already been able to support the purchase of a rehab bed for a driver suffering from cancer as well as the installation of a floor-level shower in the flat of a man who is paraplegic after an industrial accident. And sometimes it is a laptop that helps to keep in touch with the outside world during a long illness.

Entrepreneurship in the blood

Ramona Sabelus grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, where she was the sixth child to be born. After completing an apprenticeship and then studying business administration, she took over her father’s business – the former Walter Schmidt haulage company – in 1991. “In the former German Democratic Republic, you had fixed orders as a commission partner of a factory. After the fall of the Wall, that was suddenly over. From then on, you had to think, calculate and plan differently, so my father wanted to leave the company to the younger generation.” In her mid-20s, she took over the management, expanded the forwarding company, hired drivers and bought new vehicles.

Then the company became a handling forwarder for Wildauer Schmiede- und Kurbelwellentechnik GmbH: “To this day, we take care of all shipping by land, air, sea and courier,” Ramona Sabelus explains. And soon she received an enquiry from the health company Fresenius: the new federal states were put out to tender as a logistics area. “My father was against integrating it into the company, because we are a pure saddle forwarder,” she recalls. “But I really wanted to do it. I submitted a bid, won the tender and then founded another company in 1999: RS MediTrans.”

“Class prevails”

Running two companies means an enormous workload for the entrepreneur. “That’s why I expanded my team and my son Daniel also joined the company.” He has been deputy managing director of Spedition Walter Schmidt for three years. Family support also gives Ramona Sabelus more room for her honorary offices.

The fact that she is still an exception as a woman at the head of a company in the transport industry hardly matters to her herself. “I am convinced that even a woman can get a job in a haulage company if she is professionally well positioned. We have a lot of women working in our company, for example my scheduling manager,” she reports. “Of course, you don’t see many women in the industry, and they certainly have to assert themselves a bit more. But I don’t think much of the quota, because I don’t believe that women have to be favoured. I always say: class prevails. “

Everyday work of professional drivers is challenging

The entrepreneur repeatedly makes clear how challenging the daily work of professional drivers often is: “My people are out on the road day and night, in storms and snow. They often have to sleep on the ramps – and even when it’s very hot, there’s usually no shady spot there.” Finding clean toilets on the road, cheap coffee or healthy meals is also difficult, he says. “Drivers face many challenges. For example, if you are working at a desk and you get sick, you put down your pen, go home and go to bed. A driver can’t do that – they have to keep driving or get help on the road in case of an emergency,” says Sabelus.

Drivers play a major role in the company’s success

In her two companies, many drivers have been with her for a very long time. “They have always stood by me and I stand by them too. I am very aware of what a big part they have played in the success of our companies. And that is also why I want to be there for them when they need help,” says Sabelus. She is convinced that she inherited this attitude from her father: “He consciously lived these old values.” Now the entrepreneur hopes that word of the “Trucker in Not” offer will spread even more. “We always say: If you know someone who has problems, give them our number and they can get in touch at any time.”

And she has another idea: she would like to create a meeting place where drivers who have become ill or have a disability due to their job can meet and exchange ideas with healthy colleagues. “For example, a representative from a commercial vehicle manufacturer could come and report on the latest developments – simply so that the drivers who no longer work still feel they belong.

Ramona Sabelus is currently building her own logistics property. She has already planned a room where the drivers can wait in a pleasant atmosphere and also spend the night if necessary. “The room is equipped with air conditioning, Wi-Fi and a TV connection. “Because most of the time you don’t need much at all to feel comfortable: “Colleagues can find some peace and quiet and a shower there, watch a football match or relax a bit after work – just have a normal evening at work.“

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