Five minutes with: Caroline Barber, Chief Executive – Transaid

12 March 2019

Caroline Barber is CEO of the transport development charity, Transaid, having joined the organisation in 2018. Transport News Brief caught up with her…

It would be great if you could introduce Transaid to our readers – what does Transaid want to achieve?

Transaid’s mission is to transform lives through safe, available and sustainable transport. We believe that no woman should die in childbirth simply because there was no transport to take her to a health centre. We also believe that truck drivers have the right to go to work and come back home safe at the end of the day.

This is why we focus on two core areas – road safety (through professional driver training and the development of standards) and ensuring access to health care services for the most vulnerable people in society.

What is your background within the transport industry prior to working with Transaid?

I joined Wincanton on their graduate scheme back in 2003. I worked in business development as a solutions design manager before moving into implementations and change management. This was a chance to work across the UK as well as in Ireland and France to help set up new distribution centres and transport operations. It was also how I learned about Transaid.

What kind of partnerships are essential for Transaid?

Our power comes through partnerships in the UK and overseas. In Africa we work closely with governments, development partners, the private sector, donors and civil society. In the UK our partnerships with the transport and logistics industry are absolute essential to the delivery of Transaid’s mission. We have 35 corporate supporters who we are very proud to work with including DAF, Iveco, MAN Truck & Bus and Volvo Trucks. They provide us with vital funding through our corporate membership scheme, they also provide us with expertise – for example they send driver trainers, engineers and graduates out to support our programmes. It’s wonderful to be able to draw down such high quality expertise. Some of our partners also support with the provision of training equipment. On our road safety programmes we have a consortium which functions like a management board, our partners hold us to account to make sure our work is as impactful as possible.

What are the major projects that Transaid is working on at the moment?

We have professional driver training programmes running in Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia and this year we are expanding into Ghana. We are also starting important work to improve the safe use of public transport for women and to address the gender imbalance in the transport sector in three large African cities. We are strengthening emergency transport systems in Madagascar, Nigeria and Zambia to help mothers and children under five access health care. We are conducting research on the role of two and three-wheelers in rural Africa and have developed manuals for trainers and associations. Finally, we are taking our programme to tackle severe malaria at the community level to scale. The pilot led to a 96% reduction in child mortality from severe malaria so we are all delighted to have secured this scaled-up funding and reach up to a quarter of a million people. It’s going to be a busy year, but it really is the most rewarding job in the world.

Is the rapid advancement of technology an opportunity or a threat to operators in developing markets?

The rapid advancement of technology has brought tremendous benefits to people living in Africa. The mobile phone is one of the biggest examples of that. For operators, we are seeing that many fleets are becoming newer and cleaner which is certainly a positive thing. Technology is also helping improve efficiency for operators, from better planning, to vehicle tracking and easier cross border trade. Many people use motorcycle taxis to get around in Africa and there are some examples of companies using Apps to link drivers and passengers. This can give passengers some comfort that the rider has been trained and will have helmets for both rider and passenger and also reduces the need for passengers to carry cash. Transaid also welcomes the advancement of technology to help us better measure and evaluate our interventions.

How can HGV operators work with Transaid to help the charity thrive?

We partner with HGV operators in a range of different ways. We have many HGV operators who are corporate partners. Some send trainers out to support out programmes, some may donate a truck or a trailer. Others raise funds for our programmes through colleague fundraising, joining a cycle challenge or running for Transaid. If you think you would like to discuss how to partner with Transaid we’d love to hear from you.

What are your ambitions for Transaid during your tenure as CEO of the organisation?

We have developed a robust strategy which focuses on impact, scale and sustainability. The focus is on transforming lives in Africa through improving access to healthcare services and improving road safety. We have made strong progress on measuring the impact of our work and challenging ourselves to take this work to scale, but there is still more to do. We are also making positive progress around sharing information – for example producing technical briefs, sharing tools online and better communicating the impact of our work. Transaid has just celebrated our 20th birthday and I am excited about all that we have planned for the future!