“It's doggedness that does it”
Jean Bobbaers (61 – 8 years with Inter-Beton Genk) and Marvin Eynatten (28 – 4 years with Inter-Beton Tessenderlo) are Inter-Beton’s “frontline employees”. Covered in dust and sweat, racing against the clock, they overdrive their trucks to get our products to the client on time. On the road, they have to deal with increasingly heavy traffic, road work, and new obstacles at every turn. At any company, drivers are in a class of their own. They tend to be headstrong, as they know better than anyone what goes on out on the roads, and therefore what is and isn’t feasible. Their truck is their territory, and no one tells them how to get from A to B. Meanwhile, their pride and professional ethics often motivate them to achieve the seemingly impossible... So what drives them?
What does your typical working day look like?
Being a driver is about far more than most people realise. It’s not only about driving and the time pressure that goes with it; you also have to be flexible in messy traffic and know how to handle demanding clients. Sometimes you have to be really diplomatic. In our industry, where I've been working for eight years now – and will hopefully stay until I retire – you're also responsible for cleaning your vehicle and keeping your gear in good shape: after all, you are basically the poster child for your company.
On the other hand, we usually work in our own region, and for a driver that's a major bonus. We are sometimes sent to other plants. And at times, they can send you much further away. Then, the working days become really long. They could definitely plan things better for the drivers, but then, that's true for any job, isn't it? Everyone has a bad day now and then.
What changes have you noticed?
When I think back to the early days, I can only say that our job has become far more complex and challenging. Nowadays, there are speed bumps everywhere, roads are far too narrow, there are incomprehensible situations… And GPS is certainly not always the answer. I still check my roadmap first to know where I’m going, so I have a map in my head. On a more general note: I’m probably old fashioned, but I think there is less respect and discipline amongst our youth. I’m not sure abolishing compulsory military service was such good idea.
Even I agree. I have quite a few friends who prefer being lazy to being tired... Me, I wanted to start work as soon as possible after my driver training. And I did. I responded to an ad for a vacancy at Inter-Beton and got an offer to come work soon after. Now, four years later, I feel totally at home here. Of course, you never know what's going to happen, but I can’t imagine myself leaving any time soon. I’m happy with the pay and, as with all construction industry jobs, there is a lot of variety in my schedule. Sometimes, we put in very long days, but overtime is always properly compensated by leave time. And, I get along well with most of my colleagues.
What is the most important aspect of a job to you?
The give and take. I'm fine so long as efforts are made on both sides. I often swing by for half an hour on a weekend to lock a gate or check something. As long as that's appreciated, I don’t mind doing it.
The importance of the equipment should not be underestimated either. I now have a truck assigned to me alone, and it's equipped with three cameras. The blind spot camera in particular is a major improvement. After all, our mirrors are often very dirty because of the nature of our cargo and the environments we drive in.
Also important is the feeling that you’ve got a say in things – for example when it comes to safety. We often have meetings with the entire team to discuss safety and how to improve it through specific measures.
What experience has stood out most since you joined the company?
I once drove only nightshifts for a week, because of road work on the E313. I loved that week: very calm roads, a certain atmosphere… I would happily do that more often.
I once drove around all day because I was meant to participate in a TV programme. My order form only had an address and two letters on it: TV. After a few misunderstandings, I finally arrived and a bunch of scenes were in fact shot. But unfortunately, they were all cut out. You think I'm not suited for TV?
Oh yes, and my very first day! Painful – and I mean that literally. The day before, I had torn my ankle ligaments playing football, but there was absolutely no way I was going to call in sick for my first day on the job. I really had to grin and bear it those first two trial weeks, but it was worth it: I was rewarded with a temporary and then a permanent contract. My colleagues still laugh at this story, but I can assure you, it was no picnic. It's doggedness that does it, isn't it?
(The interview was conducted in 2013.)