What to look for when choosing a new truck

What to look for when choosing a new truck

Is fuel consumption or after-sales service the number one factor that buyers of new trucks and buses take into account when choosing a new vehicle?

For long distance road freight operators whose vehicles often travel 15 000 km a month, fuel consumption is their biggest variable cost. With the current price of diesel hovering around R12 a litre and an average fuel consumption of 50 litres per 100 km on a big, fully loaded rig, the operator’s monthly fuel bill will be around R90 000 per vehicle.

It’s therefore understandable that some truck operators consider low fuel consumption to be the main factor affecting their new vehicle purchasing decision.

However, an in-depth survey of 482 fleets, conducted by the Scott Byers Network to establish what medium, heavy and extra heavy fleet owners consider to be the most important factors when choosing which brand of vehicle to buy, indicates otherwise.

The results clearly indicate that after-sales service and the product back-up provided by the dealer and the manufacturer is the most important factor that operators take into account when buying a new truck or bus.

What to look for when choosing a new truckIn fact, 44 percent of the fleet operators surveyed indicated that after-sales service was their number one consideration in deciding which brand of vehicle to select.

Although fuel is the highest cost in most long distance operations, without good after-sales support from the truck dealer, dealer network and vehicle manufacturer, fuel consumption is meaningless. The vehicle needs to be kept on the road delivering the goods and earning money.

Surprisingly, only six percent of the fleets that participated in the survey indicated that fuel consumption was the number one consideration when choosing a truck brand.

Twenty percent of those surveyed indicated that vehicle reliability was the second most important factor. Again this is understandable: operators have learnt from experience that in a highly competitive road freight market and tight global economy, vehicle uptime is paramount.

Other factors that scored reasonably high in terms of importance in the survey were:

• Parts availability

• Economical lifetime operating costs

• Ease of vehicle maintenance

• Suitability for the application.

Another surprising factor discovered in the survey was that only six percent of the fleet owners interviewed rated the initial purchase price as their number one consideration when buying a new vehicle. An analysis of monthly truck sales clearly indicates that a large percentage of new trucks sold in South Africa are sold by manufacturers whose vehicles are highly priced. But these manufacturers provide excellent after-sales service and product support, and sell well-engineered vehicles that are reliable.

The message to truck and bus manufacturers and dealers operating in South Africa is abundantly clear: after-sales service and product back-up has to be good if they want to enjoy a fair share of the highly competitive commercial vehicle market. 


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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