Once again, the team from MAN Truck & Bus South Africa attended the Southern African Bus Operators Association (Saboa) national conference and exhibition in full force. MAN showcased its exciting new BRT bus chassis range.
Bruce Dickson, CEO of MAN Truck & Bus South Africa, explains that, as market leaders, it is important for the company to be visible and have a presence at industry events such as the Saboa conference.
“MAN is a key supplier to the passenger transport industry,” he says, detailing the impressive bus chassis products that were showcased for delegates to feast their eyes on.
These were in the form of the company’s A22 low-floor solo chassis, aimed at future bus rapid transit (BRT) systems, and a new R40 rear-engined coach chassis. Geoff du Plessis, chairman of MAN Truck & Bus South Africa, is keen to point out that, while these are two sectors of the market MAN has traditionally been absent from, the company was able to successfully show off its ability to build more specialised vehicles.
“While we’ve been known mainly for our ability in the commuter segment, the Saboa platform allows us the opportunity to show off our ability in the specialised vehicle segment as well,” he says. “We had some good reactions to both chassis. We feel operators may be pulled into a position in the future, where they have to procure these type of vehicles, and so we need to keep the awareness high on our MAN offering.”
Technically, the new chassis are impressive. The A22 BRT chassis complies with all future requirements for the system locally. It offers a low floor, as opposed to the higher-floor vehicles used in Johannesburg’s Rea Vaya system, for example.
“The good thing about the low floor, as opposed to low entry, is that you can actually get a door behind the rear axle as well,” says Tiago Dias, head of department: national accounts responsible for buses at MAN Truck & Bus South Africa. The A22 BRT chassis is Euro-5 rated.
MAN will bring this chassis into South Africa from Germany, in a completely knocked down (CKD) format, and has already started doing homologation and development work for future tenders.
The second MAN product display wooing visitors, was the R40 rear-engined 6×2 coach chassis, also imported from Germany CKD. Available immediately, it will be fitted with bodies from traditional bodybuilders like Irizar, Marcopolo and MCV (which is in production already).
Dias explains: “This is really a niche market that we haven’t participated in for many years, as our completely built up chassis (CBU) was not competitively priced. This CKD option now places us in a stronger position and we offer much more in terms of specification than many of our competitors.”
This particular chassis is offered with a basic Euro-3, 343 kW (460 hp) engine, but is also available in Euro-4 or -5 spec with power ratings between 328 kW (440 hp) and 358 kW (480 hp).
The chassis itself has a steer tag axle to assist with better turning, as well as independent front suspension that aids ride comfort and handling.
Dickson expects this model to take a 15 to 20 percent market share, once properly introduced with the right body and price offerings.
MAN’s association with Saboa goes back many years, according to Dickson. “MAN is actively involved as an associate member and plays a key role as part of the Saboa community,” he says.
Dickson voices his enthusiasm for the association to continue supporting the industry, but also mentions his concern that certain issues are holding back the prosperity of South Africa’s bus industry.
“I think the issue of month-to-month contracts, as opposed to long-term fixed contracts, as well as the effects of the Division of Revenue Act on the passenger transport industry as a whole, are still major talking points. The only way these issues can be resolved is through open and continuous communication between all stakeholders, including the National Department of Transport,” he says.
What about the future? Dickson believes that the growing demand for BRT and an integrated transport solution is the future of the industry, and he also feels that clear communication between all stakeholders is key to the success of these systems.
That’s not forgetting, of course, that with MAN’s new offerings for the BRT and coach markets, it will now, more than ever, be an even more prominent feature of our country’s busing future.