The next level of logistics

The next level of logistics

Two giants in the South African transport and logistics industry have joined forces, FOCUS brings you the inside scoop.


A corporate giant with 110 years behind it might be able to keep steaming along, slow and steady, but not the Barloworld Group … It’s putting its heft behind a new merger to take logistics in southern Africa to a new level.

As of January 30, Barloworld Logistics merged its Dedicated Transport Services division (DTS) with the Manline Group, to form Barloworld Transport Solutions (BWTS). The merger sees BWTS becoming a 50,1 percent held subsidiary of Barloworld Logistics. The brands Manline, Manline Energy and Timber24 will all remain within BWTS.

“All the brands have strong equity in their specific market segments and within the wider southern African marketplace,” says Steve Ford, CEO of Barloworld Logistics. “The merger aligns perfectly with our strategy to build a leading, integrated logistics business, and gives Barloworld Logistics an expanded platform to grow its transport business across southern Africa.”  

Ford notes: “We can now offer a dedicated suite of transport solutions in general freight, cross-border, hazardous goods, timber and other specialised services, along with increased fleet capacity and a more extensive footprint throughout sub-Saharan Africa.”

“This is in line with our vision to deliver ‘smart’ supply chain solutions, supported by Manline’s impressive track record of service excellence and the power of the Barloworld offering, which includes international standards of governance and risk management,” he adds.

The next level of logisticsThis track record began in 1998, when Neil Henderson, current CEO of Manline, founded the company with five trucks and a single customer. Henderson has grown the business into one of the leading transport providers in southern Africa, and will head up BWTS. “The exciting thing for me is the shared vision, values and thinking that exists between the partners, together with the opportunities that arise when entrepreneurial flexibility meets large corporate muscle,” he says.

Henderson’s modesty is somewhat misleading as to Manline’s impact in the local haulage industry over the last 15 years. The company was identified by the Barloworld group because of its range of expertise, capabilities, resources and world-class operating practices, as well as its highly experienced management teams, transport operators, drivers and technicians.

Ford elaborates: “The ultimate goal of Barloworld Logistics is to provide its clients with smart, tailored supply chain solutions that drive productivity, profitability and performance. A means to achieving this is through strategically selected partnerships with key players across the supply chain – smart partnerships. A smart partnership is an effective means for companies to leverage capabilities and resources. Mutually beneficial smart partnerships also fast-track innovation through leveraging the expertise of other organisations and by gaining access to new products, insights and markets.

“The Manline Group of companies was identified as an ideal partner to form such a partnership. In March last year, the companies signed a joint venture agreement, which enabled the teams to work together more closely and after further analysis, they decided to merge the transport businesses,” Ford adds.

Operating from two main offices, one in Pietermaritzburg and the other in Johannesburg, and with a total fleet of over 800 vehicles serving the southern African region from 30 depots, BWTS now employs over 1 800 well-trained, committed and passionate people.

BWTS will leverage the existing strong equity that Barloworld Logistics, Manline and all their subsidiaries have in their specific market segments and in the wider southern African marketplace. The current brands enable teams to focus on delivering services within their sectors and to grow their specific divisions.

Says Ford: “With over 80 percent of all goods being transported on road in South Africa, the growth opportunities are promising and BWTS is well-positioned to support new and existing clients with their growth plans into other territories in sub-Saharan Africa.”

By the look of it, that’s likely to remain so for the next 110 years.

Manline in a nutshell

Neil Henderson, Manline CEO, can tell you that hard work does indeed pay off. Taking over a rental fleet from Natal Truck & Bus (NTB) in 1998, Manline began its journey with one customer, five trucks, four trailers and 14 staff.

Nine months later, the company leased a wood chip trailer from NTB and began moving wood chips from the Lions River Saw Mill to Mondi’s Paper Mill in Merebank. The company developed its first costing model to calculate the correct transport rate for the wood chips, successfully negotiating its way into a new customer contract at a profitable rate. But it was nonetheless a difficult first year.

With its costing models again under review, Manline received the opportunity to expand into the superlink, general freight market during 1999, leasing four trucks and superlinks from NTB. Manline also secured a linehaul contract with Premier Foods, and by 2000 had moved into its own premises.

In 2001, the company took on a sales and marketing manager. “We were officially the smallest transport company in South Africa to have a sales and marketing ‘department’,” says Henderson.

“The company’s travel policy was simple – get in your car and drive. We endured numerous long car trips, during which time we dreamt of the day we would have 100 trucks and be able to fly instead of drive! A lot of Manline’s future growth and strategic direction was determined while watching the sun rise on the way to the Premier Mill in Kroonstad,” he regales.

The following year, Manline was running the entire contract for Premier Foods in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), including warehousing and distribution. By the end of its fifth year, the company had an 80-strong fleet of vehicles.

From then on, business became serious. An in-house software application was employed in 2003 to automate fleet planning and scheduling, while later that year the company concluded a BEE deal with Metallon Corporation.

Manline had become one of the largest independent logistics companies in KZN and was publicly recognised as the “2003 Company of the Year” by the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business. In 2004 the company’s Wadeville depot was opened.

It is interesting to note that Manline took delivery of 104 new MAN trucks in the 2006 calendar year – that’s equal to two new trucks every week of the year! The company also moved into its current R22 million head office facility in Pietermaritzburg and it entered the fuel transport market. 

In 2007, the company bought a 51 percent share in Tmber24 Forestry Solutions and was also awarded three significant contracts.

By the end of 2012, Manline’s group fleet topped 400 trucks.

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