When the anti-corona measures were first announced, John Opstal was concerned. He's from the Dutch trucking company, Gebr. Opstal Transport. "We've not been in business for four years yet. You, therefore, hope you don't encounter stormy weather. Things still continued relatively well in the first week after France went into lockdown," John says.
"But, in the second week, all trade stopped. Occupancy went from 100 to 20%. We've been transporting a lot of potatoes to France since the beginning of the year. That didn't stop entirely. Fortunately, things starting picking up in the third week after the rules were implemented. Now, there's as much as 20 to 30% more volume than last year."
"In those first weeks, there were many discussions with our clients and colleagues. We wanted to divide the work as well as possible among the vehicles. We immediately decided against any antics. We wanted to push all else aside and focus on what we do well - groupage transport to France," John continues.
"We drive to France every day with our scheduled service. There, Rungis' international wholesale market is the main destination. That's why we were able to welcome new clients, even during the corona crisis. We were a little hesitant to continue with the planned expansion of our fleet. Luckily we did it because now we need that extra capacity."
Last week, things were also clarified regarding Gebr. Opstal Transport's new location. "We knew our current premises' rental period was coming to an end. We were considering all kinds of options. But, we realized we would prefer to stay here in Bleiswijk. After all, we get quite a lot of work from neighboring companies. We also make daily trips between Bleiswijk and Westland and Barendrecht. We weren't considering constructing a new building either," explains Opstel.
"We had to keep the recent years' growth in mind. We had had to expand considerably right away. Luckily, Houweling, a horticultural supplier, has a site with six cooling cells available. It has space for 350 pallets and enough loading docks. So, we've been given many more possibilities when it comes to storing our clients' products at the correct temperatures. After all, we currently only have a single cell for 80 pallets. That's been chock-a-block in recent weeks."
"We now have ten trucks on the road. I wouldn't' have thought that possible a few years ago. Back then, my brothers and I started with one truck, almost as a joke. But many people see us on the road every day. That contributes to name recognition and creates the necessary interest," John says.
"I, therefore, expect we can grow our market share even more. But, certainly not at the expense of everything else. We won't compete for the lowest price. I wouldn't mind at all if we kept operating with ten trucks. If we were to add ten more trucks, that would be fine too. But price and quality have to remain balanced at all times."
John sees getting good drivers as the biggest challenge for the future. "In that sense, the corona crisis was helpful. A few drivers from other sectors came onto the market. But, in the long term, the shortage of drivers will remain a challenge. After all, you need people who are prepared to give 120%. They must also understand that driving also often means weekend work." He's optimistic about his company's future. "This crisis has taught me that we can sometimes put ourselves under far too much pressure. The demand for fruit and vegetables remains, even in times of crisis," John adds.
On 1 March, this transporter and his wife founded the local delivery service, Perfection Fruits. "We got the idea because we have to collect goods from our clients anyway. And we have refrigeration space. We do deliveries with one of the transport company's vans. So, one plus one equals three. It was a success, especially when the corona crisis just started. We suddenly got lots of orders. Things have since calmed down a lot, but that's okay. We consider this as a nice extra. Our core business, however, remains transportation," concludes John.