by Simba Samola

Trucking industry firing on all cyclinders?

The limping South African economy has impacted the transport sector for the first time in many months

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The limping South African economy has impacted the transport sector for the first time in many months. In a year-to-date comparison at the end of May, growth in the total commercial vehicle has shrunk to 2.3%, to reach a total of 10 252 units.

Negative growth was experienced in especially the Heavy and Extra Heavy Commercial Vehicle segments, with new vehicle sales declining from April to May 2019 by 6.3% and 15.9% respectively.

However, there are still some sprigs of growth to be found. Compared to the first five months of 2018, sales in the Medium Commercial Vehicle segment increased by 11.5% to 3 248 units. On a year-to-date basis, the growth rate in the HCV segment slowed down to 2.9% (1 984 units), while EHCV sales declined by 2.5% to 4 693 units.

Bus sales continued to decline, by 11.6%, to 327 units — according to the latest combined year-to-date results released by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa), Associated Motor Holdings (AMH) and Amalgamated Automobile Distributors (AAD).

“The drop in South Africa’s GDP by 3.2% during the first quarter of the year has now eroded some of the positive growth seen in the transport industry so far this year,” said Gert Swanepoel, managing director of UD Trucks Southern Africa. “The performance of the local economy during the next two quarters will be critical for our industry.”

Another factor that is having a negative impact on the industry is the ongoing violence and attacks on trucks, especially along the N3 highway.

“It is of vital importance that the government and police address and prevent these attacks on trucks and its drivers. Trucks form a crucial part of the economy and drivers’ safety is of utmost importance,” emphasised Swanepoel.

“We are now moving into a very interesting sales period,” said Swanepoel. “In spite of the fact that many of the major economic indicators are tracking negatively, the truck market has remained very resilient and just keeps on recording growth month after month.”

Swanepoel explained that UD Trucks believes that the basics, like fleet replacements, are still happening, although the industries in which sales are still happening have moved away from the traditional segments like construction, mining and manufacturing.

“We have seen a lot of growth in the logistics industry, especially with the increase in sub-segments like online shopping, local hub deliveries, and distribution,” said Swanepoel.

Meanwhile, UD has added two new truck ranges to its local product line-up. This includes eight New Quester derivatives in the extra heavy truck segment, as well as Kuzer — a light heavy commercial truck.

New Quester range

The New Quester range will be assembled from Completely Knocked Down (CKD) kits at its local plant in Rosslyn, Pretoria. Kuzer will initially be available as Completely Built-Up (CBU) units but will be moved to local CKD assembly at a later stage.

With a history of more than 57 years in South Africa, UD Trucks has built a proud legacy of providing customers with the right truck at the right time.

“We have an unrelenting passion to provide the trucks the world needs today, and into the future. This commitment has driven the company’s industry-leading innovations for over 80 years worldwide,” explained Gert Swanepoel, managing director of UD Trucks Southern Africa.

“UD Trucks utilises and adapts global technology, knowledge and resources to provide trucks and services that meet the fast-changing requirements of today’s transport industry. Globally, our innovation efforts are focussed on autonomous driving, electromobility and connectivity — the three innovation pillars that will shape the future of smart logistics.”

The company’s innovations and advancements, as is the case with New Quester and Kuzer, are built on the principles of driveability, fuel efficiency, safety, productivity and uptime — all essentials in any transport business.

“We are passionate about solving the challenges customers are facing in the local transport environment. From versatile and durable trucks, to service and parts, and on-site support, driver training and integrated telematics, it is about a complete solution that customers can rely on to keep their trucks running,” said Swanepoel.

UD Trucks’ versatile range of heavy and extra heavy trucks are engineered, developed and rigorously tested to meet the challenging local operating conditions.

Kuzer addresses fleet owners’ requirements for an efficient, safe and dependable commercial truck. Following the vision of UD Trucks’ founder, Kenzo Adachi, Kuzer has been developed and built with robust design, modern solutions and a powerful engine.

The Kuzer is aimed specifically at fleets that are looking for flexibility to operate in the urban logistics environment, but which can just as easily serve as mini-compactors, roll-backs and tippers or as robust delivery vehicles for bakeries in rural areas for example.

The name “Kuzer” itself is inspired by the Japanese onomatopoetic sound of wind, taking on the meaning ‘to run as if flying swiftly against the wind’. Kuzer is all about manoeuvrability with a short turning radius to quickly move in and out of docking bays and tight parking spots. With a large and comfortable cab, Kuzer also provides a better working environment for operators and their crews who use their truck as a mobile office, stopping and off-loading cargo multiple times a day.

The New Quester additions takes UD Trucks’ Quester offering to eighteen models, enabling fleet owners to tackle critical industry challenges and boost their bottom line through smart logistics.

“Quester is on the forefront of UD Trucks’ global aspirations of being a modern smart truck supplier, which excels on the essentials while retaining its inherent Japanese heritage,” said Swanepoel. “It is sold on four continents and there are more than 15 000 Questers currently on the road. There is a solid growth demand for Quester and with customers continuing to face new challenges in today’s economy, it was time for the range to evolve.”

The versatile New Quester is targeted at a variety of fleet operators; from long-haul transport to mining, inter-regional and construction.

New Quester also introduces key new features such as ESCOT automated manual transmission, air-suspended cabs, higher powered engines, a retarder, electrical cab tilt and user-friendly telematics. With smart, connected technology bringing fleet owners closer to their fleets, it will ultimately lead to greater productivity, fuel-efficiency, uptime, driver efficiency and safety.

“Ultimately, New Quester addresses the top concerns every fleet owner may have, namely fuel consumption, durability, productivity and maintenance, in a smart modern fashion,” said Swanepoel. “New Quester will take UD customers that extra mile every time.”

“We believe the introduction of Kuzer and New Quester will change the way African fleet owners think about trucks,” said Swanepoel. UD Trucks Southern Africa has 38 accredited dealers in South Africa, and another 11 dealers in the emerging markets region.

Isuzu bakkie sales in Zimbabwe bullish

In other news, on the back of an excellent year of Isuzu bakkie sales in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwean Minister of Industry and Commerce visited Isuzu’s production facility in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Minister of Industry and Commerce Honourable Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndhlovu is the first Zimbabwean dignitary to visit Isuzu Motors South Africa’s production facility in Struandale since it’s opening last year.

As the second biggest export market of Isuzu Motors South Africa, Zimbabwe accounts for approximately 27% of all African exports, said Isuzu Motors South Africa Executive: Corporate Affairs, Business Strategy and Legal, Denise van Huyssteen.

“We welcome the Minister’s visit and the opportunity to showcase Isuzu’s capabilities in truck and light commercial vehicle production. Isuzu is an established brand in Zimbabwe and as the country embarks on infrastructure development, we are able to offer innovative solutions to meet their needs,” said Van Huyssteen.

Isuzu has been a consistent strong brand in Zimbabwe, achieving a 25% overall market share in 2018. Isuzu held a 35% share of the pick-up (bakkie) segment and was the best seller in the Double Cab and Extended Cab segments in 2018.

“Isuzu has had a presence in Zimbabwe for more than 30 years — selling bakkies, SUV’s, trucks and buses in the market. We value our relationships with all our Zimbabwean customers and see ourselves as a brand that can offer products and services that will meet their needs throughout their life-time,” said Van Huyssteen.

A big part of the entrenched presence of Isuzu in Zimbabwe is due to the success story of Isuzu’s authorised dealership, Autoworld.

“Autoworld has been Isuzu’s number one export dealer for more than 10 years and has facilities in both Harare and Bulawayo employing more than 150 people. They are involved in various community projects and sponsors one of Zimbabwe’s top rugby clubs,” said Van Huyssteen.

Brand joins BRICS Institute’s Advisory Board

Len Brand, CEO of TATA Africa Holdings, has accepted an invitation to take up a position on the BRICS Institute’s Advisory Board.

Brand brings significant experience to the table with a proven track record of delivering operating efficiencies in challenging environments in developing markets and most recently has been responsible for turning the TATA business around in Africa.

In accepting this auspicious position, Brand notes that he is committed to the development and success of the BRICS Institute’s short- and long-term goals whose purpose is to create a better world that is economically balanced, politically just and environmentally sustainable.

The BRICS Institute is an independent institute, directed by an advisory board comprising leaders from business and government, and academics from all five-member countries of the BRICS alliance. The Institute is governed by 20 members who form the Advisory Board, which comprises several sub committees who focus on research, knowledge development and innovation.

Brand says that during his tenure on the advisory board he will serve on, he will endeavor to guide the board with his own professional expertise to help discover opportunities, and define benchmarks for its continued success and growth.

Brand is passionate about agriculture, job creation, education and skills development, especially in the areas of youth employment and community and social upliftment. TATA Africa Holdings believes in providing quality to its consumers and at the same time improving the quality of life of the people it serves.

“We are committed to a vision of building and sustaining relationships with cooperation and trust, creating employment opportunities, and making a contribution to the social development of local communities. These values are closely linked to the vision of the BRICS Institute,” says Brand.

“It is indeed an honour to join the BRICS Advisory Board and I look forward to making a valuable contribution. I am certain that my specific expertise and industry knowledge will be of benefit to the BRICS Institute and any of its sub committees,” Brand concludes.

Simba Samola

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