Answering the challenges of global vaccine distribution requires experts from every profession. Road logistics specialist Preda Dumitru operates one of the trucks in the Kuehne+Nagel European Pharma Fleet.
Preda is no stranger to the highway; he has been driving trucks professionally since 1986. In that time, he has seen a lot. “I can write a book with all that I have experienced,” he laughs. Preda has driven trucks in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey, and Russia. One highlight of his career includes crossing the former-USSR and seeing the aurora borealis late one night in Finland.
Since 2019, Preda has worked for the Kuehne+Nagel European road team. In recent months, his work has involved delivering the COVID-19 vaccines across Europe. His day begins with planning together with the European Pharma Fleet dispatchers, not just the route but also contingencies to ensure the vaccines are handled in full compliance with regulations. Finding secure, easily accessed parking places while on the road is an ongoing challenge and requires careful organisation. Preda also ensures that there is enough fuel for both the truck and the refrigeration units, and performs a full check of all equipment for irregularities. Importantly, he must stay alert and aware at all times. “Being a truck driver for me means to deliver the goods at the established times and in excellent condition.” This approach to safety is important for regular deliveries, and even more essential when dealing with life-saving vaccines. Preda knows the stakes are high: “In this roll-out, no mistake is allowed.”
Preda’s long experience in delivering pharma and healthcare products is crucial. This expertise at dealing with cold chain and other strict pharmaceutical requirements is naturally an asset when working with the vaccines. “Each pharmaceutical and medical transport is unique, with different challenges depending on the shipment,” he says. One unique aspect of the vaccine roll-out is the extra security. In certain countries, Preda is accompanied by a security escort. He is grateful for the extra support: “it gives us an extra feeling of security, even though the trailers are very secure.”
“No problems, only challenges….”
Life on the road can be difficult, but Preda approaches it with a can-do attitude: “Being a professional driver, we don’t have problems - we only have challenges.” Most factors, such as equipment and planning, Preda can control. For other elements, he relies on close collaboration with other team members. “The biggest challenge is to achieve perfect timing.” Preda and the other drivers need to overcome traffic and continually check for any local infrastructure issues that may cause a detour or delay. The coordination requires planning 2-3 days before the delivery, to ensure that the recipient, the project managers, fleet supervisors and drivers are aligned so that the delivery runs like clockwork. Preda considers the factors that enable a successful delivery to be “communication, timing and good execution.”
Preda is away from his family for over half the year. Luckily, modern technology enables him to stay in touch while on the road. He is happy that he can help by delivering life-saving pharma and healthcare shipments, especially the COVID-19 vaccines. There is a strong sense of importance to this mission: “We all want this pandemic to end. I am more than pleased to help.”