A legend steps down

A legend steps down

After 17 years with FOCUS, Vic Oliver has decided to hang up his writing hat. It is thus that, with a heavy heart, we’re saying goodbye to an absolute legend

There are some people who will always be in my heart. Vic is one of them. Over the past 17 years, we have obviously had a strong professional relationship – he was, after all, an integral part of the FOCUS team – but it was much more than that.

I will tell you more about that later. First of all, just in case you don’t know, I would like to tell you about Vic’s illustrious 57-year career in the truck and bus industry. Most people in our industry know Vic extremely well. But here’s a brief rundown for those people who may be new to our game.

Vic – who has a Marketing Management Diploma, which he received from the Damelin Management School, as well as an Advanced Certificate in Technical Road Transportation from the University of the Witwatersrand and Department of Transport – started his career in the trucking industry in 1963. He joined International Harvester, the manufacturer of the International range of heavy-duty trucks, as a trainee truck salesman. 

The training programme – which was controlled by the American parent company – consisted of the first year in the workshop, second year in the parts department and the final year in the sales and administration department.

To broaden his overall knowledge of the trucking industry and advance his career, Vic then joined the Busaf group of companies as a technical representative. He was subsequently promoted to sales manager. 

Eleven years later he joined Poole Industries in Pretoria to market the company’s well-known range of truck bodies and trailers.

After spending 18 years in the truck body equipment industry, Nissan Diesel (now known as UD Trucks) made Vic a job offer. They asked him to join their marketing team as an area manager, responsible for the performance of the Nissan Diesel dealers in the allocated area.

Vic spent many happy years with Nissan Diesel but, as time progressed, he realised that it was time to give back some of the knowledge to the industry that he had gained. So he resigned from Nissan Diesel and started his own training and consulting company called Vic Oliver and Associates. 

He has facilitated numerous commercial vehicle training sessions for the majority of heavy vehicle manufacturers in South Africa. “I am really proud of the fact that many of the sales cadets and students that I trained are now successful commercial vehicle sales consultants and others have become successful dealer principals,” he told me recently.

Vic and his associates have also worked for some of the major road transport companies, conducting vehicle audits and helping these companies to lower their vehicle operating costs and improve their profit margins.

Around the time that Vic started his own business, I asked him to write monthly articles for the magazine. His column, I decided, would be called Vic’s View. As always, Vic was very humble – he seemed somewhat surprised that I wanted his expertise – but he cautiously agreed. I don’t think he quite knew what he was letting himself in for. Because, for the next 17 years, Vic penned a wonderful article each and every month (meaning he wrote over 200 articles for us!).

Incredibly, he never ran out of ideas. His columns were always relevant, informative and downright terrific. His retirement is an immense loss to FOCUS.

While the professional loss is indeed terrible, I will miss Vic the person even more. There are so many things that I adore about the man. Yes, he is knowledgeable and professional. But, more importantly (to my mind), he is humble, kind, caring and ethical. He’s also a gentleman and an extremely good listener. He’s generous and thoughtful too; he would often pop into the office with a delicious milk tart, which was always such a treat.

I loved the times when we had a beer together (always only one; Vic would never have a second) and the wonderful conversations we shared. When you talk to Vic, he listens to every single word; he is interested in everything you have to say. There’s never a time when you can see his mind wandering – even if he is busy or having issues. I will always treasure those memories. Through Vic, I got to know his family fairly well. “Luckily I have a very good wife who takes loving care of me – even after 53 years of marriage,” he told me.

I would say that WE are the lucky ones instead. I feel very lucky to have met and got to know Vic. I know I speak on behalf of so many people in our industry when I say this.

Vic, I shall miss you terribly. So shall our readers and the industry at large. Let’s meet for a single beer (just one, of course) and a wonderful chat sometime soon. 

Tribute from UD Trucks Southern Africa:

Being part of the then Nissan Diesel SA team, Vic Oliver always kept a balance between the selling responsibility and a real understanding of the technical applications within the trucking industry.

Vic had a very strong relationship with our customers (where he could meet with the top management), but he could also spend time with operational people. He even had good relationships with drivers, and he supported them all along the way. He was always the person we could go to, being a sounding board for us in new product development and the positioning of our product.

He had a robust and structured way of working, which enabled him to mentor many young engineers and sales staff coming up through the ranks. Many of these individuals are still part of the industry – owing him much gratitude for instilling in them those values to hand over to future generations.

Published by

Charleen Clarke

CHARLEEN CLARKE is editorial director of FOCUS. While she is based in Johannesburg, she spends a considerable amount of time overseas, attending international transport events – largely in her capacity as associate member of the International Truck of the Year Jury.
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