En garde!

En garde!

“One for all and all for one!” There is a triumvirate of businesses in South Africa who have formed a highly successful collaboration, making the best of their different areas of expertise and their shared ethos of excellence.

Ahead of the 2010 World Cup, Buscor embarked on an extensive fleet renewal programme with the vision of creating a world class transport system for Mpumalanga Province. The Buscor fleet consists of 70 ProTour coaches and over 400 buses, including more than 280 articulated bus trains; the largest fleet of its kind in Africa.

In order to revamp the fleet in keeping with Buscor’s motto: “passenger safety is our passion”, Buscor approached Apollo with its specific requirements. Apollo Tyres South Africa (Pty) Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of the rapidly growing Indian parent company (Apollo Tyres Limited, India). Apollo manufactures and distributes the internationally renowned Dunlop range of passenger and truck tyres, with two manufacturing facilities in South Africa.

Buscor needed a steer axle tyre suitable for short to medium-haul operations in 60%
off-road, 40% on road conditions, characterised by a start-stop type operation. Apollo was able to take full advantage of its locally based Dunlop truck tyre range research and technical development facility to meet this order. The 77 000 m2 technologically advanced plant, provides Apollo with the ability to seize opportunities and respond quickly to the individual needs of fleets and custom-design tyres for their specific operating conditions.

The Apollo technical team was able to closely collaborate with Buscor in developing a tyre, patterned on the Transteel 366, a highly successful long-haul steer tyre. This tyre utilises a silica-based tread compound, full depth sipes and uniquely designed grooves so as to prolong the tyre life by reducing rolling resistance, provide for cooler running and assist in stone ejection.

En garde!However, Apollo did not just stick to a pattern but made several modifications, truly customising the product to the client’s needs. Apollo’s state-of-the-art research and technical facility makes use of the latest compounding technologies and tread design software.

These modifications were the end product of experimentation, testing, route surveys and yet more alterations so as to achieve the desired result. This included a specially developed compound for reducing the tearing, penetrations and flaking associated with gravel and off-road operations. Cap and base tread were modified to resist irregular wear, as were the pressure distribution sipes at the edge of the tyres’ main groove. A five-rib pattern reduces lateral cracking, evens pressure distribution and so optimises tyre life.

The new Transteel 367 was then tested extensively, in service, by the Buscor fleet and so evaluated and fine-tuned. Dunlop’s slogan, “Driven by Precision”, certainly seems apt.

Precision is just what Buscor was after, Buscor technical director, Leon Grobelaar explains, “We have an ongoing fleet tyre monitoring programme that we developed to enable us to make informed decisions when buying and specifying tyres. The Dunlop Transteel 367 has been outstanding; we’re seeing a significantly reduced scrap rate and an improved cost per kilometre.”

The third musketeer in this highly skilled collaboration is the bus manufacturing giant, MAN. MAN similarly had its eye on the government drive to bolster the standard of public transport for the 2010 World Cup, making sure they had the ability to cater for any increased demand. This is where the capacity of MAN’s manufacturing – the leading supplier of passenger buses in the country – and Buscor’s ambitious fleet renewal meshed. Ray Karshagen, MAN Truck and Bus (SA) management board member says, “MAN has been the preferred supplier to Buscor for the last 10 years, which is a partnership that has seen a number of market firsts.” The 2 500th bus produced by the MAN Olifantsfontein factory, back in March 2008, went to Buscor. The companies’ relationship has only strengthened since. For its fleet renewal, Buscor initially purchased 79 of MAN’S new Lion’s Explorer buses, the first MAN Lion’s Explorer buses to be manufactured in Southern Africa. Again, Buscor worked closely with the research and development of MAN’s new bus models and “played a major role in the development of the new Lion’s Explorer bus range”, according to Karshagen. The company now has 98 new MAN solos and articulated bus trains. Buscor became a 100% MAN fleet in June 2010.

These three different but complimentary businesses appear to have found kindred spirits in the search for and, more importantly, the attainment of stringent quality standards. A key element in successful business is having partners to rely on. Buscor, Dunlop and MAN certainly seem to have found what they were looking for and their loyalty to one another has become evident in their preferred product choices.

The success of the tripartite relationship, as described by Grobelaar, is evidenced by the fact that Buscor “spec’d Dunlop Transteel 367 fitment for all 98 of the new MAN solos and articulated bus trains purchased as part of our fleet renewal programme; this is a measure of our confidence in the product”.

Karshagen agrees, “Buscor has stringent quality standards and for them to specify Dunlop tyres on all vehicles purchased from us going forward, speaks volumes.”

MAN invariably fits Dunlop tyres to its stock-build vehicles, which it sometimes uses to fill order gaps. “It’s just the most popular tyre with fleets,” Karshagen admits.

Central to the famous “One for all and all for one” cry of Alexandre Dumas’ literary work The Three Musketeers is the support they offer one another, even being prepared to put their lives on the line for a fellow musketeer. The story is filled with daring and courage and near fatal incidents with bold rescues carried out by the unified efforts of their friends.

The cooperation of Buscor, Dunlop and MAN aims to achieve the opposite result: no one’s life should be put on the line. These musketeers certainly seem to have emphasised the benefits of a supportive partnership and have instead put their products on the line. Like the heroes of the story, each of these businesses brings something different to the table and the group as a whole is enriched by these different skills. Safety, precision and total customer support would seem a fitting joint-rally cry for these three collaborators in the commercial vehicle industry.

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