Mother of three Cynthia Thala takes home the #ThankYouTrucker award for 2023

Cynthia Thala, a dedicated bulk vehicle operator with Unitrans, has achieved a historic milestone by becoming the first woman to secure the coveted title of the 2023 #ThankYouTrucker competition.

“This prestigious victory not only highlights Cynthia's exceptional skills and unwavering commitment to her profession, but also underscores the invaluable contributions of women in the trucking industry,” said Carli Venter, Chief Strategy Officer at Unitrans, speaking at the Award presentation ceremony. “Her remarkable achievement is a testament to her determination and dedication, and Unitrans is immensely proud to have her as part of our team.”

Cynthia started her career as a bus driver. Her fascination with the world of truck driving began as she observed bulk trucks making deliveries during her previous job. Despite discouragement from friends who deemed it an unconventional choice for a woman, her husband stood firmly by her side, encouraging her to pursue her dream. She embarked on her journey with Unitrans in March 2019 as the first female Bulk Vehicle Operator (BVO) - another “first” for her and Unitrans.

Having dedicated four years to Unitrans, Cynthia is well-versed in her responsibilities and duties as a driver. She meticulously inspects her vehicle before and after trips, prioritizing on-time deliveries while maintaining a steadfast commitment to safety, not only for herself but for those around her as well. Cynthia’s unwavering dedication and reliability are evident in her track record, which includes:

  • Delivering 11.4 million liters without incident, with zero cross-overs and spills.
  • Completing 855 trips and 952 drops.
  • Achieving 651 days without injury, ensuring her personal safety.
  • Maintaining 651 days without violating life-saving rules.

A delighted Vusi Nkuna, General Manager at Unitrans and Thala’s Line Manager, thanked IVECO and the Road Freight Association (RFA), as well as Thala. In paying tribute to her, Nkuna said that Thala had never shied away from challenges and embraced all opportunities. “We are proud of you, Cynthia. You are an ambassador and a role model for our business and our team!”

On winning the award, Thala thanked her team and family. She added: “In particular, I would like to thank my grandmother who sold vegetables to support us.” She added: “It is not easy to drive alone at night, but God is with me, so I don’t fear. We are all striving to be the best.”

Thala intends to share her cash award of R50 000.00 with her family, which includes an orphaned child that she homes, and will invest the remainder. Her aspirations include co-owning a trucking business with her husband in the future.

The #ThankYouTrucker competition is a project of the Road Freight Association (RFA) and IVECO SA that was initiated three years ago. The aim of the competition is to recognise, celebrate and reward our unsung heroes on the road, our truck drivers.

Martin Liebenberg, Managing Director of IVECO commented that the competition has grown and that this year had the highest number of entries. “Cynthia’s win shows that trucking is no longer just a man’s world” he said, adding that she is a beacon of hope for all women in South Africa.

Congratulations should also be shared with Gerhardus “Pikkie” Klaase and Nkosinathi Peaceman Chiliza who came in second and third places respectively. Visit for more info.


Pic: Gavin Kelly, Cynthia Thala & Martin Liebenberg