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The Nomad tours have covered sub-Saharan Africa for 20 years
Africa Adventure Tours, one of the leading operators providing this service in sub-Saharan Africa, has bought 25 Hino 500-Series 1626 trucks to update its fleet of 47 vehicles.
These are Nomad’s first Hino trucks after MD and founder Alex Rutherford did a detailed comparison and studied the positive feedback from reference checks with current operators of Hino trucks in similar businesses.
“The most important requirements of a truck in the adventure tours business are reliability and durability, backed up by good fuel consumption and excellent after-sales support.
“We believe that this is what we are getting with the new Hino trucks,” said Rutherford.
“The trucks must also be easy to maintain at comparatively low cost and need to be designed for operation in the most rugged African conditions.”
Nomad African Tours, which is now in its 20th year, operates a complex network of tours throughout sub-Saharan Africa, all of which run to tight timetables, particularly in the high season from July to October. The tours vary in length from four days to 56 days, with a round trip that goes as far as Uganda and totals about 20 000 km, so vehicle breakdowns have to be kept to an absolute minimum.
The fleet is expected to cover more than three million kilometres this year, made up of about 850 tours. Nomad Adventure Tours trucks have already travelled more than 30 million kilometres over the past 20 years, transporting more than 95 000 travellers on about 10 000 tours.
The trucks are run for five to eight years and replaced when maintenance start to rise, usually after covering more than 800 000 km. The trucks are fitted with additional 400-litre fuel tanks, dual battery systems and air bags on the leaf-spring suspension system to make the ride more comfortable for the passengers.
Nomad buys its trucks as chassis cabs and then fits its own bodies, which are manufactured in facilities at the company’s head office in Somerset West. These bodies have been developed over the years to provide safe and comfortable transport for 24 travellers who have the option of overnighting in tents or in lodges.
Rutherford said the type of trucks has become a lot more powerful over the years. “Whereas 140 horsepower engines were considered sufficiently powerful in the early days, we now have 260horsepower engines to power the adNOMAD venture tour trucks, which weigh as much as 12 tons laden.”
The 20-year history of Nomad Adventure Tours is a wonderful success story.
Rutherford, who had completed a degree in economics and psychology after leaving school, had no firm plans for a career but he was filled with wanderlust.
This resulted in him travelling to London, buying a 1972 Land Rover and setting off to return to Cape Town by an overland route. The return journey took almost 11 months and proved a marvellous learning experience as Rutherford and his fellow travellers interacted with other people involved in overland trips through Africa.
“That lengthy journey got me thinking of offering an organised African adcosts tour with particular appeal to Europeans keen to visit our continent,” said Rutherford.
“The result was that on returning to Cape Town, I bought a new truck and found a suitable body at a scrapyard which I modified to make it suitable for a long-distance adventure tour.”
By the end of 1998, the company had eight trucks operating and in 2003, Rutherford was able to buy out his partner and the expansion continued. The number of trucks rose to 63 when he took over a competitor, but has subsequently been cut back to 46 trucks, which Rutherford said is the optimum for the current economic conditions.
He is also very proud of the company’s exceptional safety record and stressed the importance of building quality bodies that are strong and safe.
The company now employs about 200 people, many of them having been with Nomad for many years. Rutherford said that the responsibilities for guides have changed over the years and now their training has to include subjects such as dispute resolution as tempers can get frayed on some of the long road journeys. He said that the customers are also changing and are generally older these days, while there is a growing switch away from overnight camping to sleeping in lodges.
Rutherford said that this year is looking good for his business and the prices of the tours, in real terms, are now lower than two years ago. “Several of our competitors have gone out of business in the 20 years we have been in this business, but I am pleased to say that our formula continues to work very well and we are looking forward to a bumper 2016 and 2017.” — WR.
The new Hino 500 series’ trucks will modernise the overlander fleet at Nomad Adventure Tours.