“Only one truck works for Africa” – the FAW 28.380FT truck tractor says BHL

What more can a truck manufacturer wish for than a customer who not only sings the praises of its brand and its aftersales support, but also claims that for their own operation there is “only one truck that works in Africa”?

Buks van Rensburg, Managing Director of Buks Haulage Limited (BHL), which primarily uses these FAW units in its 130-vehicle fleet, has made this exceptional accolade for the FAW 28.380FT (commonly called the J5).

Van Rensburg’s claim is no mere lip service. To bear out this claim, he has literally put his bucks on the table by ordering a further 100 FAW vehicles to back-up the 99 units he already has – all of them the robust FAW 28.380FT.

“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.”

BHL have been running 70 of the FAW 28.380FT side-tippers, transporting copper concentrate from the mines in Zambia to the countries smelters. Thereafter the robust 29 FAW flat decks transport the beneficiated material from the smelter, over 2 400 kilometre from Ndola, Zambia, to Walvis Bay, Namibia, for export to China.

“Treacherous roads with the worst conditions ever seen – dirt tracks, potholes, sludge, sand and rubble. Hard on any truck and driver, and capable of virtually breaking the camel’s back – the vehicle’s and the driver’s – in very quick succession,” explains Van Rensburg.

However, Van Rensburg knows and understands Africa, its roads and its infrastructure. He is an astute businessman who displays a tremendous ‘get-go’ attitude that won’t baulk at an opportunity.  He has hard-earned, first-hand experience of driving a truck tractor/trailer combination across the ‘worst roads imaginable’. He is sharp and nimble in business decisions and can notch great logistics experience on his belt. Van Rensburg has run various businesses since his first start-up in 1996, Coma Transport Pty Ltd., a long haulage operation between South African destinations and Swaziland.

Being very 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 up 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 – 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 a confident Van Rensburg.

Asked about the vehicle-of-choice falling to FAW, and the FAW 28.380FT in particular, Van Rensburg, quickly dons the businessman hat. “It’s simple – it is effective cost of ownership, together with a dependable and easy-to-operate product and great aftersales support.”

“Who can argue with 2,1 kilometre per litre on a side-tipper and 2,5 kilometres per litre on a tri-axle flat deck? Since I’ve incorporated the FAW vehicles I have realised a 10% saving on fuel alone. On fleet utilisation I have increased my uptime from 65% to 95%,” says a very satisfied Van Rensburg.

“Why is FAW so good? Because the FAW is easy to service and to maintain at our self-service depots in Ndola and Solwezi, Zambia, our drivers love them and BHL has optimum fleet efficiency.”

BHL has 100 depot employees, of which 12 are FAW-trained technicians to look after the FAW fleet. BHL holds R5-million in parts and spares, to not only 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 have only used 8 to date.”

“We’ve seen concrete evidence of FAW’s durability, reliability and simplicity.  Our drivers love their FAW trucks. BHL follows a one-driver-one-truck policy. Also our drivers prefer the manual transmission because they are quicker to repair and, frankly much easier to drive in Africa. The 28.380FT has the best uptime – a big incentive for drivers too. Keeping our well-trained drivers comfortable the FAW provides a cosy cab with air-sprung seats, air-conditioning and all the necessary creature comforts.”

Each of the company’s vehicles is equipped with satellite tracking technology and all of its 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.

“FAW aftersales support and personal attention is unrivalled.  I’ve yet to enjoy better support than that which I have from the FAW group. They’re part of my “team”; understand my business and know what is important to my business’s viability,” reiterates Van Rensburg.

BHL fleet maintenance standards are at first-world standards.  Each truck returning to either of the depots is washed immediately, 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-year’s 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.

“As far as our customer commitment is concerned, at BHL we acknowledge that our customer is king. We are committed to honouring our agreements with our clients on time at all levels and to remain professional at all times,” Van Rensburg states proudly.  “Each client is treated individually and offered real-time management solutions. We give peace of mind to our clients, so they can focus on their core business, while we manage their transport and logistics.”

According to Van Rensburg, sound project management is vital to the success of all types of jobs, whether they are long-term or short-term contracts. “Excellent communication is of the essence for effective decision making, delegation of tasks and liaison with all our customers at all levels, and the assigned manager will ensure that the project team develops a sound understanding and appreciation for our client’s business,” Van Rensburg concludes. He expands: “A business is only as good as its people and we are very fortunate to have a committed team of people from our drivers through to the management team.”