A recent statement issued by UD Trucks Southern Africa where managing director Gert Swanepoel was commenting on May’s new truck sales caught my eye. In the statement, he pointed out that the limping South African economy had impacted on the transport sector for the first time in many months. He also, however, referred to the impact on sales that the on-going violence and attacks on trucks was having.
Let’s look at the figures first. In a year-to-date comparison at the end of May, growth in the total commercial vehicle market had shrunk to 2.3% to reach a total of 10 252 units. Negative growth was experienced in especially the Heavy and Extra Heavy Commercial Vehicle segments, with new vehicle sales declining from April to May 2019 by 6.3% and 15.9% respectively. However, Swanepoel pointed out that there are still some “sprigs of growth to be found.”
“Compared to the first five months of 2018, sales in the Medium Commercial Vehicle segment increased by 11.5% to 3 248 units. On a year-to-date basis, the growth rate in the HCV segment slowed down to 2.9% (1 984 units), while EHCV sales declined by 2.5% to 4 693 units. Bus sales continued to decline, by 11.6%, to 327 units,” he said.
These figures were according to the latest combined year-to-date results released by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa), Associated Motor Holdings (AMH) and Amalgamated Automobile Distributors (AAD).
Commenting on this scenario, Swanepoel said: “The drop in South Africa’s GDP by 3.2% during the first quarter of the year has now eroded some of the positive growth seen in the transport industry so far this year. The performance of the local economy during the next two quarters will be critical for our industry.”
He then went on to say that another factor having a negative impact on the industry is the on-going violence and attacks on trucks, especially along the N3 highway. “It is of vital importance that the government and police address and prevent these attacks on trucks and its drivers. Trucks form a crucial part of the economy and drivers’ safety is of utmost importance,” he urged.
Having followed the truck attacks saga for well over a year, FleetWatch editor Patrick O’Leary can confirm that it has impacted on new truck sales. One operator I recently spoke to said he had put off purchasing three new truck tractors for his fleet.
“The finance was approved and all was set to go when I decided to hold back on the deal,” he told me. “I just did not want to risk committing to the new vehicles and then having them attacked and burnt out on their first trips. It is just too much of a risk,” he said.
The fact that Sasria would cover such incidents didn’t bring comfort either as the payouts would take time while the monthly payments would have to continue. And the trucks would be lost to any revenue generating activity.
So yes. The violence and attacks has to come to an end and the sooner the better. Apart from the risk to all drivers, it is affecting so many areas of the economy that are not immediately obvious. Everyone sees the burning trucks but very few see the sparks flying off to start fires in other areas such as truck sales. The flames of these fires are less obvious but they also serve to destroy.