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Pioneering logistics in South Africa August 15, 2014 |

Founded in 1955, the history of Cargo Carriers is synonymous with that of its charismatic, astute and resolute founder, Desmond Bolton. Indeed, for most people who remember the early decades of the company and witnessed its growth into one of the largest and most successful privately held transport businesses in South Africa, Des in many ways was Cargo Carriers.

What made this ambitious and determined young man into one of South Africa’s most successful businessmen? What is immediately clear when piecing together the fascinating history of this company was the way in which Des infused his business with his own personal values and a positive attitude.

He was a highly ethical man, yet courageous in taking entrepreneurial risks. He was the definition of a people’s person but was not shy to make tough calls on his staff if he thought the business was suffering through underperformance. He was highly intuitive about big business decisions, but had an unparalleled attention to detail. These contrasts worked spectacularly well in building what started out as a one-horse company (even though the horse was the legendary “Old Faithful”) into the largest privately-owned transport operation in Southern Africa. In 1955 having been awarded his first contract, Des went out and, with a good eye for a great truck, purchased ‘Old Faithful No.1’, which was set to work immediately. The grand old horse was carefully looked after and eventually retired in style in 1968, having clocked up well over a million miles. By the early 1970’s, Cargo Carriers had a fleet of hundreds of vehicles. In 1987 the company was listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and retains this listing to this day.

In 1988 Desmond passed away at the age of 65, leaving behind a legacy in the transport industry and a company that, under the guiding hands of his two sons, is poised to grow and innovate new roles in supply chain management and logistics, beyond the haulage work that served the company so well in its early decades. Since 1992 Garth and Murray Bolton, manage the company.

Anyone who has been involved with Cargo Carriers overs the years would agree that the driving force behind the company’s longevity and success has been its relationship with its customers.

In the steel industry, Cargo Carriers has had a long and important relationship with Iscor (now ArcelorMittal). The relationship began in the mid 1960’s, when Cargo Carriers started hauling steel for Iscor with a fleet of seven trucks. By the mid-eighties, Cargo Carriers was operating a fleet of more than 200 vehicles for the steel giant and, today, this long term relationship continues and has evolved into a solid business partnership.

The extent of the partnership is evident in the location of Cargo Carriers’ Vanderbijlpark branch, complete with administration block, tyre bay and a comprehensive workshop. Located within close proximity to the ArcelorMittal SA plant, the Vanderbijlpark branch is focussed on steel logistics management.

As leaders within the transport industry we have a 35-year track record in the management of hazardous chemicals within South and Southern Africa. In 1979 Cargo Carriers established its branch in Sasolburg which specialises in the transportation of chemicals. We are also affiliated to the Chemical and Allied Industries (CAIA) and are signatories to Safety and Quality Assessment (SQAS) and Responsible Care. The Sasolburg branch has been rated as a “preferred haulier” in terms of the Chemical and Allied Industries Association (CAIA) criteria.

The transport industry is well known for being extremely competitive, with high value assets, high risk cargoes, and many players. In order to succeed in such an industry and for as long as Cargo Carriers has, innovation is a non-negotiable quality. In all its fifty nine years of existence, Cargo Carriers has consistently innovated to stay ahead – bringing on board new technology and value added scheduling and routing systems.

Sustaining the same core values has led to Cargo Carriers being around for nearly 60 years, longevity seldom heard of in the modern business world. The values and attributes of the business are ones that characterised Des Bolton as a person, and ones that are shared by his sons. They are not by any means the only values and attributes the company has held dear over the years but they encapsulate much of the company’s essence and identity.

The Cargo Carriers vision after 59 years continues: “To be recognised as the preferred partner in supply chain and logistics solutions and be rated as the leader in our selected specialised markets.”


In 1968 Cargo Carriers acquired New Vaal Motors, a Mercedes Benz dealership in Vereeniging. It was insightful of Des to acquire this dealership as, at the time, the majority of the company’s fleet was made up of Mercedes Benz trucks, meaning that he had a built-in captive market. When Cargo Carriers listed on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange in 1987, it made sense from a risk point of view to move the motor division out. However, it remains in the hands of Cargo Carriers Holdings, and the Hallmark Motor Group was formed.

The automotive business interest was further expanded when another Mercedes-Benz dealership was acquired in the Southern Cape and later in the Northern Cape as well. This in combination with expansion into Toyota franchise dealerships created a platform to build formidable automotive interests that today constitute the Hallmark Motor Group. The Hallmark Motor Group is a thriving business with interests in 38 dealerships countrywide that gives it a national footprint – six of which are based in the Vaal Triangle, which include Vaal Toyota Vereeniging, Vaal Toyota and Honda Vaal Sasolburg , Suzuki Vaal and GWM Vaal.

New Vaal Motors (as part of the Hallmark Motor Group) is a dealership that specialises in the sales and service of Mercedes Benz passenger and commercial vehicles, extending Cargo Carriers’ business beyond trucking. The dealership is further complimented by the full range of Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge as well as the addition of Fiat/ Alfa brand of products (passenger and commercial vehicles) and finally also the commercial Freightliner and Fuso range of vehicles.

New Vaal Motors underwent an extensive upgrade in 1983 to include showrooms, workshops and offices, and today has an expansive complex covering some four hectares. Employing over one hundred and seventy eight highly skilled people, New Vaal Motors constantly strives to be better and empower its employees. The New Vaal Motors business includes a fully fledge dealership in Johannesburg South as well as a branch in Bethlehem consisting of passenger car and commercial vehicle operations, thus making it possible to service a large area to include parts of Gauteng and Free State.

Vaal Weekblad
26 August 2014

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