Transport industry still fighting fit
The past year has been an eventful one for all South Africans. There was the unanimously successful Soccer World Cup, and the unanimously disastrous economic recession. Both events have impacted on the local transport industry and some companies have suffered, but ultimately those at the top of their game have come through on the other side of 2010 with guns still a-blazing.
These top companies were recently acclaimed at the FOCUS on Excellence Awards banquet, sponsored by WesBank. The awards celebrate those companies who are achieving excellence as transport operators, vehicle suppliers and tyre, fuel, lubricant and trailer suppliers.
The FOCUS on Excellence awards are considered to be particularly important by contestants, as they are voted for by people in the industry. It is the only awards ceremony of its kind in South Africa and contestants and customers alike know that the results reflect which companies really are excelling.
Scott Byers, the research company in charge of counting the thousands of votes, determined the winners through a rigorous voting system, which involves questioning members of senior management in the industry. This year was even tougher, and therefore more rewarding, as in order to make the finals, companies had to receive over 10% of the votes, rather than simply be in the top five. This means that some categories may have had only two or three finalists.
Being a finalist in the awards, which are in their fifth year, is therefore a significant achievement in itself. Each of the finalists deserves praise and recognition for being truly world-class companies, delivering world-class products and services.
“The winners can be safe in the knowledge that amidst one of the toughest economical years to date, they have managed to deliver their goods and achieve complete customer satisfaction,” notes Charleen Clarke, editor of FOCUS on Transport magazine, which convenes the awards programme on behalf of the commercial vehicle industry.
The awards, held in Johannesburg on 9 November, were graced by the kings and queens of the industry: the winners, finalists and other top dogs were all there to celebrate the great advances happening in South African commercial transport.
This celebration would not be possible without the support of WesBank, which has sponsored the awards for the past three years.
“Partnerships are extremely important in business, and they are vital in sustaining the truck and bus industry in South Africa. We are very proud to be partnering with the industry in sponsoring the awards,” says Chris de Kock, WesBank sales and marketing executive. “It is good to see so many smiling faces this year, rather than the somewhat more grim ones I faced last year – it shows things are really looking up going in to 2011,” he adds.
TOP VEHICLE SUPPLIERS
It came as no surprise to see South African automotive legend, the Toyota Hilux, being named the Best Light Commercial Vehicle for the fifth year running, beating fellow finalists General Motors and Nissan SA.
One cannot drive on a South African road without sighting a Hilux, and this award is testament to how loved they are by locals. This year is a special one for Hilux, as it is celebrating its 40th birthday. Kerry Roodt, general manager of marketing communications at Toyota, says, “Our continued success would not be possible without our dealers and our loyal customers, so a big thank you needs to be paid to them.”
Best Medium Commercial Vehicle was once again snapped up by Hino SA. Its 300 Series has long been a favourite in the South African market. Three words that have always been synonymous with Hino are dependability, reliability and quality, and the 300 Series embodies all of these. The award shows it has done more than survive the rebranding of the company 18 months ago, but has once again come out on top. “The tough times over the past year reflect the true grit that the winning companies have,” says Ignatius Muthien, senior marketing manager, Hino SA. “The South African transport industry is blessed to have so much professional expertise available across every spectrum.”
Other finalists in this category were Isuzu Truck SA, Mercedes-Benz South Africa and UD Trucks Southern Africa.
Mercedes-Benz won the Best Heavy and Extra-Heavy Commercial Vehicle awards. This company is widely accepted as the best in these segments, and does not skip a beat to make sure it retains its hold. The Atego is a heavy commercial vehicle that upholds a long and successful tradition in distribution transport through maximum reliability, outstanding performance and strength. The Actros and Axor, on the other hand, continue to make their mark on the extra-heavy vehicle segment, with the majority share of this market.
Hino SA, Isuzu Truck SA, MAN Truck and Bus SA, and UD Trucks Southern Africa were the other contenders for Best Heavy Commercial Vehicle. Other finalists for Best Extra-heavy Commercial Vehicle were Freightliner, MAN Truck and Bus SA, UD Trucks Southern Africa and Volvo Southern Africa.
Although Mercedes-Benz South Africa and Scania South Africa were finalists for Best Commuter Bus, MAN Truck and Bus SA once again proved unbeatable. MAN commuter buses can easily be spotted all over the country and are widely accepted as the top selling bus in South Africa. MAN is also the only manufacturer that offers a complete bus solution. “I’m very proud of our team here at MAN, it really is all about them and their hard work,” says Ray Karshagen, business development board member, buses, at MAN. ”Our awards tonight are thanks to a good team and a good product; it’s as simple as that.”
This year, Mercedes-Benz shone yet again, this time in the Best Touring Coach category. Mercedes-Benz proves that it not only excels in the truck market but has the versatility to provide tourists with ultimate comfort and safety. Other finalists were MAN Truck and Bus SA, Scania South Africa and Volvo Southern Africa.
PREMIER FUEL AND LUBRICANT SUPPLIERS
This year was a difficult one for fuel companies, being very much under the spotlight and scrutinised by environmentalists. However, one company still managed to come out ahead of all the rest and Engen Petroleum Limited was the one to achieve this. A commitment to responsible corporate citizenship, environmental awareness and accountability are the factors that ensured Engen’s number one position as both Best Supplier of Fuels and Best Supplier of Lubricants.
Fellow finalists in the Best Supplier of Fuels category were BP Southern Africa, Chevron SA and Shell South Africa. Finalists in Best Supplier of Lubricants were BP Southern Africa, Castrol, Chevron SA and Shell South Africa.
“Over the past few years we have really focused on trucking transport,” says John Kennedy, business manager for commercial fuels within the Engen sales and marketing division. ”Our network of service, truck stops and card systems all helped us to achieve very satisfactory performance this year, and these awards are recognition of that from the industry.”
BEST OF THE BEST IN TYRES
The battle for Best Tyre is always a tough one, as all the products available are world-class. However, Bridgestone once again showed it has a little something extra that makes customers favour them year after year. Bridgestone South Africa has long provided transport operators with a comprehensive range of commercial vehicle tyres, ideally suited to South Africa’s challenging conditions.
The other finalists in this category were Dunlop, Firestone, Goodyear and Michelin.
“This is the third time we have been up here for this award, and we are extremely grateful to all our customers, whether they have bought one or 100 tyres from us,” says Julio Fava, general manager of producer sales at Bridgestone.
Closely linked to this award is Best Supplier of Tyre Services. Again this is a coveted award and amongst the finalists were Max T Solutions, Supa Quick Auto Centres and TrenTyre. This year it was TrenTyre who was most favoured in the eyes of those in the know. Established in 1948, TrenTyre sells and manufactures new multi-brand tyres, retreaded tyres, wheels and allied services via an extensive countrywide branch and retread factory network.
“It is an honour and a privilege for Trentyre to receive this award,” says John Sims, general manager, TrenTyre. ”We are proud of this achievement as the country’s leading distribution channel of multi-brand new and retread tyres, related products and services to the truck fleet industry. We will continue to bring this excellence to our customers in the years to follow.”
SALES, SERVICE AND PARTS TO THE FORE
The extremely tough economic recession was not the only factor to hit the transport industry hard. South Africa was struck by numerous strikes affecting transport manufacturers’ ability to import parts and supplies and move them to where they needed to be, in turn affecting sales and service.
Although this affected everyone, the really stellar companies were able to shrug off the effects and move on quickly after the strikes. The awards for Vehicle Distributor with the Best Sales Support, Best Service Support and Best Parts Support are therefore particularly special this year.
Hino once again demolished its numerous competitors, claiming the prize for Vehicle Distributor with the Best Sales Support. Hino has the largest dealer network in the country as well as an excellent relationship of mutual respect with its dealers. Other finalists were Freightliner, Isuzu Truck SA, MAN Truck and Bus SA, Mercedes-Benz South Africa, Mitsubishi Fuso, Scania, UD Trucks Southern Africa and Volvo Southern Africa.
“This award is really all about our 53 dealerships across the country,” says Casper Kruger, vice-president of Hino SA. “So a big thank you must go to all our dealers and sales managers.”
Isuzu Truck SA emerged as a company to be reckoned with at this year’s awards, claiming the prize for Vehicle Distributor with the Best Service Support and Vehicle Distributor with the Best Parts Support.
This is a new win for the company, which has successfully emerged as one of the strongest companies in the industry after one of the toughest years. Isuzu offers a two-year, unlimited distance warranty on all its derivatives, which really acts as a strong market differentiator for the company. The awards recognise this valuable support to operators.
“We have been working extremely hard towards these awards, so it’s great to get recognition from the industry,” says Ian Porter, truck sales manager, Isuzu Truck South Africa. ”We have put a lot of emphasis on after-sales and it’s fantastic to see this message is getting through, and that customers are recognising the improvement we have worked hard to bring them. Thanks must also be given to our dealers – they play a huge part in our success.”
Other finalists for the Vehicle Distributor with the Best Service Support were Hino SA, MAN Truck and Bus SA, Mercedes-Benz South Africa, Scania South Africa, UD Trucks Southern Africa and Volvo Southern Africa.
Finalists for Vehicle Distributor with the Best Parts Support were MAN Truck and Bus SA, Mercedes-Benz South Africa and UD Trucks Southern Africa.
LEADING IN THE TRAILER GAME
Henred Fruehauf emerged at the top this year, beating other top competitors Afrit and SA Truck Bodies. Henred Fruehauf manufactures heavy-duty axles, suspensions, hydraulic cylinders, the components used within these products, and rubber components.
“Henred Fruehauf and SA Truck Bodies both form part of Route Holdings, so this award goes to 2 000-plus workers who proudly fly the flag,” says Moses Naidoo, marketing manager at Henred Fruehauf.
SA’S TOP TRANSPORT OPERATORS
This year, the awards for Best Bus Operator and Best Coach Operator were separate, allowing one company to really shine in each segment. However both awards have something in common: the companies competing for these awards are responsible for the transport of passengers, making safety and comfort the number one priority.
Putco achieved Best Bus Operator, over the tough competition of other finalists Buscor, Golden Arrow and Mega Bus and Coach. Putco has managed to get to the top of the pile whilst also focusing on addressing, in its employment policies, the needs of the previously disadvantaged.
Best Coach Operator was once again awarded to Greyhound, which beat its fellow competitors, Mega Bus and Coach, Springbok Atlas and Translux. Greyhound carries over 400 000 passengers annually, more than 11 million kilometres, while keeping them happy with the highest safety and comfort standards.
“Lots of hard work went into achieving this award so we are very happy and proud,” comments Peter Ferreira, operations manager at Greyhound.” In order to achieve excellence we have focused on cutting down fuel consumption and bringing expenses down in other areas as well. This is what helps us bring an excellent service to our customers.”
Best Transport Operator is always a hotly contested award, with the finalists jostling one another each year. This year, Unitrans claimed back its place as number one, making it the winner for four out of five years. Unitrans’ services include transportation, warehousing, distribution, clearing and forwarding and related supply chain services. Other finalists were last year’s winner, Imperial Logistics, as well as Hestony Transport and Value Logistics.
“This award is really thanks to our 8 000 employees, so I accept it on behalf of them in recognition of their extremely hard work over the past year,” says Frank Wagner, chief executive officer of Unitrans Supply Chain Solutions.
EXCELLENCE IN ACTION
For the first time this year, an additional category has been introduced: a Certificate of Excellence presented to top performing companies. This award pays special tribute to suppliers who significantly improved their performance versus the previous year. The award is given to companies who improved their ratings by at least 9% in any one of the categories. Three companies received this special recognition: Isuzu Truck SA (Medium Commercial Vehicle category), MAN Truck and Bus SA (Touring Coach category) and Isuzu Truck SA (Heavy Commercial Vehicle category).
“The market is exceptionally competitive and it is important to realise that these companies were all finalists in their respective categories last year – so they already scored highly. To improve their ratings by at least 9% is a remarkable achievement. It demonstrates that, over the past year, these companies have lifted their game and done an outstanding job of delivering true service excellence,” comments Clarke.
The FOCUS on Excellence Awards is not only sponsored and therefore endorsed by WesBank, but also enjoys massive industry support. Industry associations have also endorsed the awards programme including the Automotive Component Remanufacturers’ Association (ACRA), Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport of South Africa (CILTSA), Engine Remanufacturers’ Association (ERA), Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations (FESARTA), Institute of Road Transport Engineers (IRTE), Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), Motor Parts and Equipment Association (MPEA), National African Association of Automobile Service Providers (NAAASP), National Association of Automotive Component & Allied Manufacturers (NAACAM), National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA), National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA), National Vehicle Testing Association (NVTA), Road Freight Association (RFA), Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), RMI Towing Association (RMITA), Southern African Bus Operators Association (SABOA), South African Motor Body Repairers’ Association (SAMBRA), South African Petroleum Retailers’ Association (SAPRA), South African Vehicle and Body Builders’ Association (SAVABA), Tyre Dealers’ and Fitment Centre Association (TDAFA) and the Truck Rental Association (TRA).