Just do it!

Lots of people talk about a “can do” attitude. At FOCUS, we put it into practice … as evidenced by this month’s Truck Test!

It can’t be done. It won’t get industry support. It will be a disaster. That’s what many people said when the idea of a massive truck test was first mooted. But as you turn the pages of FOCUS right now, 16 gleaming rigs are rolling down the N3 … Truck Test 2012 is under way!

I’m sure there will be some hitches, so I am not about to crow or gloat. I just have to share my immense pride with readers. I am so proud to be associated with a team of real go-getters; people who put that can-do attitude into practice each and every day.

I’m referring to the Truck Test sponsors – especially Engen (the very first company to come on board). As excitement mounted, the list of sponsors and participants grew on a weekly basis – you will see the various brands featured over numerous pages in this issue of FOCUS, starting on page 10. Those people all had the same can-do attitude and were determined to work with the FOCUS team to ensure that the project got under way.

I am also referring to the organisers – HTM’s Fritz Hellberg, Barloworld’s Adrian van Tonder, and the whole FOCUS team, especially publisher Tina Monteiro. It may be a cliché to say they worked tirelessly to ensure the success of Truck Test 2012, but it’s true! Pardon the expression, but they worked their butts off.

As such, I simply have to pay tribute to each and every person involved in this simply sensational project – I am so very proud to be associated with people who truly believe that the sky is the limit; people who Just Do It!

From one positive story to another. We all know that a relationship with a man is a Seriously Tough Thing. It’s fraught with challenges – bitter partings are a dime a dozen.

But it appears this doesn’t apply to a relationship with a MAN. I was utterly astounded to learn that MAN Truck & Bus did not lose one single South Africa fleet customer in the whole of 2011! Marcus Geyer, CEO of MAN Truck & Bus (SA), revealed this achievement at the company’s annual media lunch recently, pointing out that it is indeed rare. “This does not happen often in the commercial vehicle industry; we try very hard but there can be a hiccup along the way,” he noted.

In addition to not losing any fleets, the company notched up some notable conquest fleets – including Spar, Imperial, WBHO, Ni-Da Transport, SAB Miller, Afrox, Grindrod and Lieben Logistics.

I am, by nature, an extremely positive person. But I am realistic too. So, when the Joule electric vehicle was announced, I wondered how a tiny little South African company was planning to take on the likes of Nissan and Chevrolet.

Clearly the investors wondered too – and the prospects of seeing the car on our roads seem to be disappearing as fast as the millions of rands of taxpayers’ money spent on developing it.

But now the developer of the Joule, Optimal Energy, is eyeing the bus market – electric buses specifically. It’s muttering about building 100 such buses a year.

There is no doubt that the electric bus market is growing. In fact, according to Electric Buses and Taxis 2011-2021, a report by Dr Peter Harrop and Dr Harry Zervos, the market for electric buses and taxis will rise 8,7 times from 2011 to 2021, approaching $60 billion not long after that.

But that same report lists 78 hybrid bus manufacturers and 53 pure electric bus producers – which means Optimal Energy would have a plethora of competitors. It also has a noticeable lack of funding. Rob Handfield-Jones, managing director of driving.co.za and occasional FOCUS columnist, fears that taxpayers may yet again become unwilling benefactors.

“The SA taxpayer could be facing a total bill of around R2,5 billion by the time the first e-bus rolls off the production line,” he warns.

I normally commend a can-do attitude – but, when it comes to the e-bus, I truly hope the crew at Optimal Energy doesn’t have one.

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Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publication in southern Africa.
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