For the cynics and the doubters here’s proof that there are massive opportunities for transport business in Africa.
An operator who has successfully done business for over 20 years in Africa now – Buks van Rensburg, Managing Director of Buks Haulage Limited (BHL), has just supplemented his FAW truck fleet, when he recently took delivery of another 25 FAW 28.380FT truck tractor units in Johannesburg.
“The key is that you must know and understand this diverse continent with various levels of development, and different economies. The African environment is enigmatic; it is collective of many nationalities with many different languages and cultures. Transport operators, especially those from South Africa, need to acknowledge, accept and plan for the challenges this presents,” advises Van Rensburg.
He says that running heavy-duty trucks throughout Southern Africa requires one very important attribute – flexibility!
“First world business models for logistics and materials handling are not necessarily going to work in sub-Saharan Africa,” he advises. “Where I run transport throughout Southern Africa, and up to Zambia, the challenges are massive and can change quickly. You need to be able to adapt and reorganise your team, the logistics, routes, contracts and loads, quickly and easily. Obviously, you need the tools and infrastructure to communicate and plan fast. You also need your support infrastructure to move with you when needed.”
“For this you must have the best of the best. First and foremost are my drivers. They are the most important asset in BHL,” says Van Rensburg. “Driving a laden vehicle of in excess of 52 tons GCM over 2 400 kilometres in some routes, requires another partner with impeccable trust, understanding and reliability. That’s why I am committed to the FAW brand and especially why I keep ordering more FAW 28.380FTs,” he says.
In total BHL now runs over 160 FAW vehicles in their fleet, the majority being the FAW28.380FT side-tippers mainly for Zambian copper concentrate and some drop-sides load carriers for timber work in Swaziland, amongst many other applications.
A new Namibian company setting up a new smelter increased mining opportunities further afield, which allowed BHL to add to their FAW truck fleet.
“I took a decision a few years ago that all my replacement vehicles would be the FAW 28.380FT truck tractor. We use it in two configurations – one is a flat deck and the other a side-tipper trailer supplied by Afrit Trailers, another key partner in our team.”
BHL run FAW 28.380FT side-tippers, transporting copper concentrate from the mines in Zambia to the countries smelters. Thereafter the robust FAW flat decks transport the beneficiated material from the smelter, over 2 400 kilometres from Ndola, Zambia, to Walvis Bay, Namibia, for export to China.
Being very logistics savvy Van Rensburg keeps his fleet loaded as much as possible on return trips from Namibia to Zambia, carrying various chemicals, some hazardous even – like sulphuric acid – needed by the mining industry up in the African copper belt.
Asked about the vehicle-of-choice falling to FAW, and the FAW 28.380FT in particular, Van Rensburg, responds easily: “It’s simple – it is effective cost of ownership, together with a dependable, durable and easy-to-operate product. Most importantly is the great aftersales support we get from FAW.”
“Who can argue with 2,1 kilometre per litre on a side-tipper and 2,5 kilometres per litre on a tri-axle flat deck? Since I’ve changed to the FAW vehicles I have realised a 10% saving on fuel alone over previous vehicles. On fleet utilisation I have increased my uptime from 65% to 95%,” says a very satisfied Van Rensburg.
“Why is FAW so good? Because the FAW is easy to service and to maintain at our self-service depots in Ndola and Solwezi, Zambia, our drivers love them and BHL has optimum fleet efficiency.”
BHL has 100 depot employees, of which 12 are FAW-trained technicians to look after the FAW fleet. BHL holds R5-million in parts and spares, to not only service and maintain the vehicles but to carry out repairs and even conduct rebuilds if necessary. Smaller containerised workshops are set up on site where the contract requires this.
“We’ve seen concrete evidence of FAW’s durability, reliability and simplicity. Our drivers love their FAW trucks. BHL follows a one-driver-one-truck policy. Also our drivers prefer the manual transmission because they are quicker to repair and, frankly much easier to drive in Africa. The 28.380FT has the best uptime – a big incentive for drivers too. Keeping our well-trained drivers comfortable the FAW provides a cosy cab with air-sprung seats and all the necessary creature comforts.”
Van Rensburg may appear to be a strict logistician, but he has a compassion for his drivers that is unrivalled. At the handover of the 25 new FAW28.380FTs he said to his drivers who were present, having just completed their driver training at FAW headquarters: “You are my business. Each and every one of you, my drivers, is responsible for our success.” He went on to acknowledge their sacrifice and dedication. He thanked them for their excellence not only in their superb driving skills but in their willingness to live a harsh lifestyle in one of the most challenging jobs.
Speaking to some of the drivers, they confirmed the arduous environment and gave the example of a 179km drive from Chingola to Solwezi which takes them 6 hours to cover.
Each of the company’s vehicles is equipped with satellite tracking technology and all of its drivers are given mobile telephones. This enables BHL to monitor driver behaviour and ensure its trucks are being operated in the most cost efficient and responsible manner possible.
“FAW aftersales support and personal attention is unrivalled. I’ve yet to enjoy better support than that which I have from the FAW group. They’re part of my team; understand my business and know what is important to my business’s viability,” reiterates Van Rensburg.
BHL fleet maintenance standards are at first-world standards.
“As far as BHL’s customer commitment is concerned, we acknowledge that our customer is king. We are committed to honouring our agreements with our clients on time, at all levels and to remain professional at all times,” Van Rensburg states proudly. “Each client is treated individually and offered real-time management solutions. We give peace of mind to our clients, so they can focus on their core business, while we manage their transport and logistics. I think this is a big factor in repeat business.”
According to Van Rensburg, sound project management is vital in all types of jobs, whether they are long-term or short-term contracts. “Excellent communication is of the essence for effective decision making, delegation of tasks and liaison with all our customers at all levels, and the assigned manager will ensure that the project team develops a sound understanding and appreciation for each of our client’s business,” Van Rensburg says.
He concludes: “Our business is only as good as our people and partners like FAW and Afrit. BHL is very fortunate to have a committed group – people and companies who believe any job is possible and everything around us is an opportunity.”