One of South Africa’s leading truck body and trailer building companies, Serco, is starting 2015 with a healthy order book and is geared up to take full advantage of improved business prospects, says the company’s managing director Clinton Holcroft.
This after challenging trading conditions for much of 2014 resulting from the stagnant economy and downturn in trade with a general reluctance in the industry to place orders for new equipment.
“There was a widespread pull back from major customers as well as truck dealers in the first six months of 2014. I think the fallout from labour issues in 2013 which spilled into 2014 and the Rand weakening significantly against the major currencies resulted in transporters cutting back on the outlay of capital for the replacement of trucks and trailers,” says Holcroft.
“It was a tough period but in the second half of the year the situation changed and we started to see business picking up culminating in record levels for November. This was largely driven by retailers and fleet companies realizing they were short of vehicles to meet the increase in demand over the festive season.”
This resurgence of confidence is running over into the New Year with Serco having a healthy order book which augurs well for business prospects in 2015. Holcroft says transporters are benefitting from the falling fuel price and the relative stability of the Rand against major currencies, factors which have helped keep running costs in check.
Highlights of the 2014 year for Serco included the relocation of its Gauteng operation to new premises in Boksburg which are now fully operational, providing extra space and improved facilities. Meanwhile, building operations are in full swing at the company’s Kwa-Zulu Natal plant in Phoenix Industrial Park Durban and should be complete towards the middle of next year.
Serco is also enjoying a spurt in its sales to neighbouring countries where demand appeared to be on the up. “Another highlight was our visit to the 2014 IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Germany where we saw various interesting new developments and the increased use of technology, such as the growing trend in trailer aerodynamics and the use of telematics for fleet management, temperature management and maintenance control,” says Holcroft.
Serco would like to see regulations in South Africa changing to allow the use of rear aerodynamic trailer fairings which are proving effective in countries such as the United States and Europe in reducing carbon emissions and saving fuel. There is also a need to tighten up on regulations relating to load securing to improve vehicle safety, which was noted in Europe,” says Holcraft.
Looking forward, Holcroft says getting through the tough trading conditions spurred Serco into pushing harder to improve operations and efficiencies. “We’re focused on what is important and determined to make our business better. We’re ready to up our game to take advantage of the improving conditions for 2015.”