No stopping sales
Even bus fleets are being built up
INEFFICIENT RAIL TRANSPORT has resulted in around 75% of all freight in South Africa now being transported by road, according to road freight industry calculations
That’s resulted in truck fleets increasing significantly in size over the past two decades. Plus there’s been massive growth, especially in the biggest category – trucks over 20 t.
The sales of new vehicles, including buses and trucks, were livelier than for a long time over the past two years, thanks to SA’s economic prosperity and a stronger rand, which made imported vehicles cheaper. In many cases, new records were set.
Fleet managers used the opportunity to build up their fleets, as a later weaker rand could result in above average price increases. And current lowish interest rates and attractive financing offers won’t last.
According to Naamsa figures, truck and bus sales last year were better than in 2005, when sales increased by 31,7% to 27 406 units. Last year’s figure was 33 080 units, 12% better than in 2005.
The main problem that buyers face when deciding to buy a new vehicle is choosing between the approximately 15 manufacturers and extensive model ranges.
However, there’s a clear preference for certain brands that have always been among the top sellers.
For example, in the category for trucks of 3,5 t to 8,5 tons Toyota was the leader, with 2 859 units. Mercedes-Benz sold 1 824, Nissan Diesel 1 656 and Isuzu 1 482. The newcomer, Tata – which sold a modest 98 units in SA in 2000 – was just a shade behind Toyota last year with 2 605 units.
The progress made by other models is also noticeable. Mitsubishi’s Fuso series improved from just 136 units in 2003 to last year’s 634, and in the category for 8,5 t to 16,5 t it grew from only one unit in 2004 to 361 last year.
In buses, MAN, Mercedes-Benz, Scania and Volvo were the leaders last year. The combined sales of those four represented around 93% of the total, with the rest being shared by the six other manufacturers.
Justin Haler, of Truck & Bus, says that bus sales last year rose to 1 250, which is the highest since the golden era in 1981, when around 2 500 were sold. “That’s encouraging when you remember that annual sales in 1992 fell to just 285 units,” Haler says.
In the late Eighties, bus sales fell to less than 1 000 units/year. Only in 2002 was the 1 000 mark again reached.
Haler says the better sales over the past two years were an indication that old bus fleets are being renewed. “If there hadn’t been shortages at certain overseas manufacturers the figure could have been even higher last year.”
One of the most striking trends of the past few years is that trucks in certain sectors are hired rather than bought. Some of the main players here include Imperial Truck Rental, Barloworld and Avis Truck Rental.
Imperial Truck Rental MD Eileen Caramanus says the rental market is expected to grow considerably up to 2010. She says the market is a good barometer of how the economy is faring. “Our greatest challenge now is to benefit as much as possible from the boom by thinking laterally as far as our rental products to both transport operators and occasional customers are concerned.”
Fleet management journal FleetWatch praises the rental market and says it’s popular because vehicles don’t appear on balance sheets and the full costs can be written off as operating expenses. They also don’t have to worry about how they’ll sell an old vehicle, nor about the inevitable capital losses. The rental group also handles servicing and repairs.
Truck fleets increased.