Buks Haulage Limited (BHL), which up to now has primarily used FAW truck tractors in its fleet, has ordered a further 100 FAW 28.380FT truck tractors – commonly called the J5 – to add to the 99 units already operating in the fleet.
“I took the decision in October last year that all my replacement vehicles will be the same FAW 28.380 truck tractor in future. We use it in two configurations – one with a side-tipper trailer supplied by Afrit Trailers and the other with a flat deck,” says Buks van Rensburg, managing director of BHL.
BHL has been running 70 of the FAW 28.380FT side-tippers, transporting copper concentrate from the mines in Zambia to the country’s smelters. Thereafter, the flat decks are used to transport the beneficiated material from the smelter over 2 400 kilometre from Ndola, Zambia, to Walvis Bay, Namibia, for export to China.
According to Van Rensburg, the route is over treacherous roads with the worst conditions ever seen. “Dirt tracks, potholes, sludge, sand and rubble. It’s hard on any truck and driver and is capable of virtually breaking the camel’s back – the vehicle’s and the driver’s – in very quick succession,” he says.
However, Van Rensburg knows and understands Africa, its roads and its infrastructure having run various businesses since his first start-up in 1996, Coma Transport Pty Ltd, a long haul operation between South African destinations and Swaziland.
Being logistics savvy, Van Rensburg keeps his fleet ‘loaded’ with all return trips from Namibia to Zambia, carrying various chemicals – some hazardous even like sulphuric acid – needed by the mining industry in the African copper belt.
Just this year Van Rensburg decided to register a subsidiary of BHL in Namibia to pick up on the increasing business opportunities being generated in sub-Saharan mining operations. In 2015, a new smelter will be commissioned in Zambia, adding to the haulage business.
“I am focussing on Walvis Bay as the export point for my clients. This is owing to the faster, more efficient border clearance procedures and through times which gives my clients faster turnaround and gives me optimum uptime for my fleet.”
For the new Namibian company, Van Rensburg has ordered another 25 FAW 28.380FT units. “Further expansion which we’ve planned over the next 18 months, owing to the new smelter and other increased mining opportunities, has enable BHL to extend our FAW fleet by a further 100 units, both side-tippers and flat decks. These are due for delivery through 2014 and into 2015,” says Van Rensburg.
Asked about the vehicle-of-choice being FAW – and the FAW 28.380FT in particular – Van Rensburg says it’s all about effective cost of ownership, together with a dependable and easy-to-operate product and great after-sales support.
“Since I’ve incorporated the FAW vehicles, I’ve realised a 10% saving on fuel alone. On fleet utilisation, I have increased my uptime from 65% to 95%,” he says, adding that the FAW units are easy to service and maintain at the company’s self-service depots in Ndola and Solwezi in Zambia.
BHL has 100 depot employees of which 12 are FAW-trained technicians to look after the fleet. BHL holds R5-million in parts and spares, not only to service and maintain the vehicles but to carry out repairs and even conduct rebuilds if necessary. “Ironically, we purchased quite a lot of parts anticipating some particular high repair rates. Of the 50 clutch kits purchased 18 months ago, we’ve only used eight to date.”
As for the drivers, he reckons BHL follows a one-driver-one-truck policy and says the drivers love the FAW preferring the manual transmission because they are quicker to repair and much easier to drive in Africa.
Each of the company’s vehicles is equipped with satellite tracking technology and all drivers are given mobile telephones. This enables BHL to monitor driver behaviour and ensure its trucks are being operated in the most cost efficient and responsible manner possible.
As for the after-sales support, he reckons the FAW after-sales support and personal attention he receives is unrivalled. “They are part of my ‘team’ and understand my business knowing what is important to my business’s viability.”
BHL fleet maintenance standards are at First World standards where each truck returning to either of the depots is washed, degreased and undergoes a full check and a full report from the driver. This helps maintain a healthy fleet of vehicles where any minor irregularity is rectified quickly.
BHL’s planned FAW fleet replacement cycle is four years, followed by a complete engine and transmission rebuild and then another four-years of operating life. At present, individual vehicles are clocking up approximately 10 000 kilometres a month and some of the earliest units have reached the 250 000km mark.