An order for 215 trucks speaks volumes. After all, as CHARLEEN CLARKE discovers, this is not a decision that is taken lightly …
Truck suppliers have a habit of telling everyone how wonderful they and their products are. That’s called marketing. Thus, when FOCUS receives news of a massive truck order, it’s normally accompanied with lots of PR gobbledygook – and it’s up to us to sift out the facts and present them to our readers.
I was, thus, ever so chuffed to be invited to the biggest ever MAN handover in the company’s 52-year history in South Africa. I wanted to find out why the transport operator had bought the trucks – and get it from the horse’s mouth so to speak (with apologies to this operator).
The operator in question is called Barloworld Transport Solutions (BWTS), a relatively new name to the transport industry, since it only came into being early last year. BWTS was formed after Barloworld Logistics merged its Dedicated Transport Services division with the Manline Group. The merger saw BWTS becoming a 50,1 percent held subsidiary of Barloworld Logistics. The brands Manline, Manline Energy and Timber24 all form part of BWTS.
BWTS has purchased 215 MAN TGS 26.440 6×4 truck tractors – 32 units as a result of expansion and 183 for replacement purposes. The new TGS 26.440 BLS-LX truck tractors will be deployed in three of the four BWTS business units, servicing line-haul (general freight), tipper (bulk commodities) and tanker (fuel, chemical, gas and dry bulk) customers throughout southern Africa.
The new units have been configured to BWTS’s custom specifications, which include a steel bumper, air suspension, aluminium rims, a swing step and paint and livery applications to comply with the corporate identities of the various businesses in the BWTS Group.
But why has the order been placed? Is it out of some sense of loyalty? “Not at all. Yes, the first truck we bought back in 1998 was MAN. But this is certainly not an emotional purchase; that cannot happen when you’re acquiring assets worth nearly R300 million. We looked at the numbers – purchase price, resale value, residual values and lifecycle cost. The TGS 26.440 provides us with the lowest cost of ownership. We have actual data because we have tested it against other trucks,” Neil Henderson, CEO of BWTS, tells FOCUS.
The opinion of drivers was also important. “Ergonomics are important and the MAN remains the drivers’ truck of choice,” says Henderson. “The MAN TGS is our drivers’ truck of choice and our driver management systems, together with integrated vehicle telematics and fleet-management tools, allow us to proactively manage our on-road risk.”
It is clear that drivers are highly rated at BWTS, which boasts an exemplary driver training academy; undoubtedly one of the industry’s finest. “We have 24 or 25 full-time driver trainers in the group. When you invest in drivers, the payback period is not immediate, but it is essential. But if you don’t look after your drivers, you don’t have a business,” Henderson notes.
Another reason for acquiring the MANs pertains to after-sales support. “If we didn’t get the after-sales support, we wouldn’t return to MAN. All trucks have good and bad times and MAN has a great team of people to support us. It’s an unbeatable combination,” he maintains.
As a cross-border operation, Manline relies on MAN’s extensive sub-equatorial dealer network, which includes 22 service partners and dealerships north of the Limpopo.
Looking to the future, Henderson reveals that more trucks could be on the cards. “The merger has been very good for us. The thinking is that we can grow bigger and faster if we work together – it’s a case of one and one equals three. We have already grown 25 percent post merger. We are riding a merger positive wave and have been hiring great people and getting new business … this is a nice place to be,” he reveals.
And what of the Manline name? Will it eventually disappear? “It makes sense to keep it. Manline has brand and driver equity. So, for now, it is staying,” says Henderson.
The same, clearly, applies to the MAN brand …