Looking ahead to 2013

Violent strikes that caught international attention, the increasing use of Transnet’s oil pipeline and the constant threat of rail were among the curveballs thrown at the market in 2012. Despite this, it still ended close to VIC OLIVER’s predictions. How might 2013 fare?

At the time of writing this article, some of the costliest and ugliest driver and miner strikes in South Africa’s recent history have thankfully finally come to an end. Unfortunately, the trend has started to spill over into other sectors of our economy and we have to ask ourselves how these on-going strikes will affect our new truck and bus sales in 2013.

The world-wide publicity of these strikes over the last few months of 2012 dented business confidence in South Africa. Recently published figures illustrate a downturn in manufacturing production since the strikes, accompanied by a fall in exports coupled to an increase in imports. Not good news for the South African economy.

Unknown at this stage is the long term effect of the strikes and wage increases on our economy and the trucking industry. This makes predicting the 2013 new medium, heavy and extra-heavy commercial vehicle market difficult.

But I believe that South African business people are tough and will overcome the hurdles that the strikes and wage demands have caused in the economy and in their businesses. Provided, however, that the labour and political situations remain stable and that the government gets control of the unrest in the country.

The volatile and staggering world economy is another factor that has to be taken into consideration when forecasting next year’s commercial vehicle and bus sales.

Transnet’s goal to win back more freight onto rail and the upgraded oil pipeline are factors that have to be taken into consideration. To date we have seen very little evidence of road freight being transferred to rail. However, with the large budget that government had set aside to improve the country’s rail infrastructure, there is no doubt that some of the bulk long-distance freight will return to rail. Resulting from the effort that Transnet is applying to get more freight back on rail, we may see some changes in the pattern of freight transport next year, with more of the heavy long-distance freight moved by rail but with an increase in local logistics. This could result in a shrinking of the extra-heavy truck market, balanced out by an increase in the sale of heavy and medium commercial vehicles.

The new upgraded oil pipeline has already affected long-distance road tanker operations. Some road tanker operators are reporting a slowdown in requests to transport products.

An analysis of new vehicle truck and bus sales in 2012 shows that the market remained fairly steady throughout the year, with a slight fall-off towards the end. Total truck and bus sales for the 2012 year should end between 26 500 and 27 000 units, as predicted in this column in the 2012 FOCUS on Transport and Logistics Transport Manager’s Handbook.

Taking all of the above factors in to consideration, my forecast for truck and bus sales in 2013 remains similar, at the 27 000 unit mark.

One of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, VIC OLIVER has been in this industry for 49 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel, 11 years with Busaf and seven years with International.

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