A trouble-free 1,5 million kilometres from FAW for Trans Atlantis ‘oldie’

There are few 8-ton trucks today, which have run the length and breadth of South Africa for over nine years, clocking up 1,5 million kilometres on their original engine, gearbox and differential, while also claiming the accolade of completing close on 180 000 kilometres on its original set of tyres.

Trans Atlantis Vrystaat, a family-owned Free State courier company, was delighted when FAW Vehicle Manufacturers (Pty) Ltd ‘repurchased’ the vehicle from them in order to add it to FAW’s History Hall at their recently opened Coega-based manufacturing plant.

Until its very recent retirement the FAW 13.160 (currently known as 15.180FL) 8-ton truck was still turning in fair fuel consumption figures of 4, 5 litres.  On top of this its reputation for being able to start first-time/every-time despite an ambient Free State winter temperature of -7oC also remained intact.

Dubbed ‘Oupa’ by its driver, Nico Claassen, who drove the vehicle for most of its million-plus kilometres, it was a nostalgic moment in July for the Trans Atlantis Vrystaat team to see the vehicle leave the fleet.

Co-owner of Trans Atlantis Vrystaat, Etienne Deetlefs says: “Nico was quite sad to say farewell to the most reliable truck we ever had in our fleet, yet we were all proud that FAW SA recognised that his careful driving style and preventative maintenance attitude, helped keep their quality truck so reliable, durable and cost efficient. He would always check the vehicle thoroughly, as well as tyre pressure and all lubricants, before setting off on a run.”

“We bought the truck in 2004, off-the-shelf with no add-ons or anything fancy.  Besides the bakkies, our entire truck fleet is FAW. Why? Because they are uncomplicated and easy to maintain, while also giving us consistently great operational efficiency and reliability.”

Deetlefs continues: “While business has been extremely tough, especially as the weak economy continues to take its toll on our customers, which in turn impacts on our family-owned business, we have remained positive. We have managed to retain a good portion of customers and pride ourselves on the fact that we keep our customers loyal to us for all their courier requirements, because we deliver on our promises.”

Etienne Deetlefs, an accountant, is also very much a hands-on businessman and a self-taught ‘mechanic’, servicing his own trucks when necessary.  He holds to the motto of ‘customer service’ and believes his ‘word is his bond’. “It is these qualities that also make Etienne such an incredible customer and brand ambassador for FAW” says National Sales Manager Eugene Van Der Berg. “I sold him his first truck over ten years ago, and he cares for both his customers and his trucks with the same dedication and perseverance, making him a business man and customer to be reckoned with.”

When called for, Deetlefs has himself driven the same 8-tonner with some very unusual cargo. “Our most expensive cargo, valued at 1,1 million British Stirling, weighed a mere 500 grams! However, the small package was encased in a 2-ton containment structure.  It was enriched uranium.”

The FAW 8-tonner has couriered large-scale building materials, moved furniture, even transported some corpses and rushed organs for transplants across the country. The robust and durable FAW truck has covered the entire South African landscape  – from Paternoster to Durban, from Cape Town to the far northern reaches. It has seldom needed to be repaired and has an enviable record of in-service uptime.

“The FAW 13.160 has been a workhorse of note. Not a day’s trouble and the most reliable vehicle I’ve ever had,” concludes Deetlefs.

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