Month of mayhem!

Month of mayhem!

Well I have loved Transport Month. Not because of anything the government has achieved within the month of October. But because the industry truly rose to the fore.

Shame. Our controversial Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters, was probably ill-advised when she announced the theme for Transport Month this year: “Celebrating 20 years of delivering efficient, reliable and safe transport services.”

Um. What was she thinking?

I can only assume that someone out of touch with reality came up with that slogan. It would be quite ridiculous to state that “transport services” are efficient, reliable and safe in South Africa. Yes, transport operators often do a fabulous job of delivering an efficient and reliable service. But can we claim that this industry has an impeccable safety record? Come on …

However we can certainly claim that this industry is vibrant and progressive. And there is certainly a huge amount of activity within this wonderful industry of ours … I’ve been in the game for a while and I honestly cannot recall a month that’s been more hectic than October 2013.

Some of the activity revolved around the Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS), which delighted some and disappointed others. Other activities may have been planned to coincide with this show. Either way, the level of activity within the month of October convinced me that our industry is alive and well. You will be able to read all about what happened at JIMS and elsewhere in this issue of FOCUS (our fabulous team was pushed to the very limit to keep up with events in the month of October). However these are just a couple of my personal highlights for Transport Month.

Planning commenced for Truck Test 2014, with a meeting at Engen. We will be testing trucks with a V-rating of 5 000 to 9 000 kg in 2014. Watch this space for more info!

Incidentally, it was great to see Isuzu’s entrants from the 2013 Truck Test on display – both at JIMS and also at the company’s trucking event (more about that later).

Volvo Trucks launched 15 vehicles during an incredible event at Gerotek during the month of October. You can read all about it on pages 40 to 43 of this issue of FOCUS. The 15 vehicles were obviously hugely significant. But so too was the presence of the president of Volvo Trucks, Claes Nilsson, at the event. We often think we’re pretty important. But, when I attend international launches, the opposite is apparent – the world’s manufacturers are not always cognisant of the South African market (despite the fact that we’re the gateway to Africa and all that stuff). The reality is that we represent a miniscule percentage of the world market!

Well, it’s evident that Volvo thinks we’re reasonably important – hence the attendance of Nilsson, which was good to see.

A similar tale relates to Iveco, which hosted a dinner in Johannesburg in October. The event was attended by a bundle of its senior executives from Italy (ironically, most of them were not Italian). The dinner was clearly related to JIMS – where the company had an overwhelmingly huge presence (while the stand blew me away, I loved experiencing the 4×4 on the off-road track). But it was still great to see the enthusiasm of the international team and, of course, the local executives, led by the massively dedicated and capable Bob Lowden, Iveco South Africa’s managing director. It was equally good to see the company’s truly fantastic stand humming with activity throughout JIMS. Iveco clearly invested in JIMS – big time. And I was pleased to see that it paid off.

I spent a considerable amount of time on the Scania stand this year, mingling with senior executives from all over the world. Like Iveco, the Scania stand was a constant hive of activity – which was great. It was clear that position played a great role – Scania, Iveco and MAN, which all had stands outside the trucking hall (Hall 5), enjoyed a constant stream of visitors. The poor guys in Hall 5 were often greeted with almost ominously silent aisles.

Month of mayhem!But back to Scania. I was chatting to Steve Wager, the very likeable managing director of Scania South Africa, and Ivan Stefanovic, the company’s sales director (he has the best accent in the business), and it was good to hear that they secured a whopping 20 orders in the first couple of days of the show.

I could say that orders “flooded in”. But I dare not. On the first weekend of the show, the heavens opened and the Scania stand was hit by a virtual tsunami. It was a complete crisis for the company, which managed the situation incredibly well. I had to giggle when I discovered that their tipper had filled with water, turning the truck into a veritable swimming pool.

Well this was a show of optimism if ever I have seen one. We all know that the Mercedes-Benz fleet management system – it’s called FleetBoard – is regarded as industry leading. Now it has a rival. That rival is called Tata Telematics. It is a joint venture between Tata Motors and MiX Telematics and, during an exclusive interview during the month of October, the powers that be assured me that it is even better than FleetBoard.

During the second week of the show, I had a terrific chat with Shaheer Abrahams, general manager: sales and marketing, Tata Automobile Corporation SA, and Steven Sutherland, sales director of MiX Telematics (Africa). And they assured me that nothing comes close to Tata Telematics – not even FleetBoard. One of the reasons for the superior performance of the product, they say, is because the two companies have “stuck to their knitting”. Tata specialises in designing and producing vehicles – not telematics systems (that’s MiX Telematics’ area of expertise).

But now they have joined forces to come up with this offering, which was conceived in a shebeen! (I kid you not.) It doesn’t sound as dodgy as you may think – Abrahams and Sutherland were both at a function at a PMA Congress (the one evening was labelled a “shebeen evening”). Anyway, they chatted about the idea of working together and coming up with an industry-leading telematics offering – and now Tata Telematics has been born.

Sutherland says that users of Tata Telematics will be able to slash their fuel bills by five to 10 percent. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me …

One of my highlights at JIMS was an exclusive interview with Ford Motor Company global president and CEO Alan Mulally and Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa president and CEO, Jeff Nemeth. It was a delight to meet Mulally, who is – of course – one of the most influential businessmen in the world. Incredibly, he is very down to earth – I really liked that. I chatted to Mulally about environmental issues (my interview featured on our television programme; more about that later) and I also asked Nemeth about the possibility of Ford bringing bigger trucks to South Africa. He says it is a possibility, commenting that Ford is always examining various revenue opportunities. Let’s see …

As mentioned above, we also produced our own television programme during Transport Month. Called FOCUS ON GREEN at JIMS, it was flighted on Ignition over the second weekend of November. If you missed it, give Bev a call at Month of mayhem!our office (tel: 011 782 1070) and she’ll send you a copy of the DVD.

Isuzu Trucks featured prominently in our television show – largely thanks to the company making a truly momentous announcement at JIMS. This is the fact that Isuzu Motors has extended its shareholding in the company to 70 percent! Isuzu Trucks also kept us busy during the month of October, hosting a trucking event out at Tarlton. We got to drive and admire the company’s latest range … and I also met a vampire. Really. Promise. Read all about it in the December issue of FOCUS.

In between the mayhem, we managed to dash off to John Orr Technical High School in Johannesburg, and donate DVDs to the learners there. Abraham Setshedi, chairman of the governing body, and Jannie Venter, the school’s principal, were delighted to receive our donation. We, in turn, were delighted to make a difference in the lives of their learners. The DVDs were purchased by our EduTrans division (regular readers and friends of FOCUS will know all about this initiative, which aims to alleviate the skills crisis in our industry).

There were tons of other highlights in Transport Month – I could fill all the pages of FOCUS this month. Just some were experiencing Hino’s reveal of its Euro-4 trucks; chatting to some incredibly enthusiastic MAN customers (they adore the brand and its staff); hearing about Babcock DAF signing a huge deal; interviewing Kobus van Zyl, the enormously successful and inspirational vice-president sales and marketing commercial vehicles at Mercedes-Benz South Africa (read all about it in our December issue) and, of course, attending BPW Axles’ annual beer fest.

Now, all that’s left is for me to collapse in a heap. (With a big smile on my face.)

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