Ebb and flow

Ebb and flow

The current pandemic is putting a strain on all sectors across the globe. We take a look at how the heavy commercial vehicle industry is faring during this storm.

It has been a whirlwind year as 2020 has delivered its fair share of horrific surprises, the worst of these being the global spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has brought entire economies to a halt, claimed thousands of lives and affected millions more.

The South African commercial vehicle industry has managed to stay afloat to some extent – but it has been a rollercoaster ride during the first half of 2020.

Overall, January sales results indicated a 4,4% year-on-year decline. According to the combined results released by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa), Associated Motor Holdings and Amalgamated Automobile Distributors, 1 568 new trucks and buses were sold during the first month of 2020.

Compared with January 2019, heavy commercial vehicle (HCV) sales declined by 14,5% – to 277 units. “We have certainly seen an interesting start to the local commercial vehicle market in January 2020,” said Filip van den Heede, managing director of UD Trucks Southern Africa, adding that the sharp decline in HCV sales was an indication that the fundamentals were under pressure.

Naamsa reported that aggregated domestic new vehicle sales continued the declining trend into February. HCVs saw a 3,7% increase, up 54 units on the same period last year, as 1 509 units were sold however.

March and April, understandably, saw a downturn in HCV sales – which dropped 18,6% or 295 units, to 1 289, from the March 2019 total. This was to be expected as Covid-19 cases rose and the national lockdown followed.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, 87 HCVs were sold in April. This, according to Naamsa, reflected a decline of 1 327 vehicles or a fall of 93,8% from the corresponding month last year.

During May the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel, announced that certain trading activities on vehicles would be permitted during Alert Level 4.

“As we have said before, this virus doesn’t move, people do,” Patel noted. “One of the key enablers of this mobility is through vehicles. We have carefully crafted new directives that would empower our dealership network across the country to cautiously resume with their operations whilst reducing the risk of infection across the entire automotive value chain and save the lives of our employees and those they come into contact with through the dealer shop floor and their maintenance and repair centres.”

Naamsa president, Tim Abbott, said that while the entire automotive industry was anxious about when it would be allowed to do business, everyone understood that there were no trade-offs. “The risk that this virus will spread is real and this is something we have embraced and it is part of all our business planning. We are very pleased that the Minister has heard our plea and we are also very grateful that our teams across all different brands and channels have collaborated seamlessly through Naamsa. We all support the directives as outlined and announced by Minister Patel.”

This phased reopening saw a slight improvement from April’s performance, but sales remained weak. Naamsa reported that HCV sales showed a decline of 906 vehicles, or a fall of 62,8%, compared to May 2019.

Although markedly up from the previous two months, the new vehicle market continued to remain under severe pressure during June. Naamsa noted that this year’s half-way mark still reflected a substantial decline of 14 086 units or 30,7% from 45 953 vehicles sold in June last year compared to the aggregated domestic sales of 31 867 units for the corresponding month this year.

Naamsa reported that HCV sales showed an increase of 110 vehicles, or a gain of 6,5%, however – compared to June 2019.

The Association has warned that the uncertainty of the anticipated impact and extent of Covid-19 has caused planning constraints, and the industry’s responsiveness to react and adapt to market changes remains imperative. This year will be a difficult one for the industry, with a significant projected decline in the new vehicle market, and it will test the renowned resilience of the industry.

Taking care of truckers

In 2009 Daimler Trucks & Buses Southern Africa (DTBSA) partnered with the Trucking Wellness Programme, an initiative of the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI), to ensure the health and well-being of truck drivers on our roads.
Over 10 years later, the work initiated through this partnership has grown to positively impact thousands of lives on and off our roads, while evolving to include targeted wellness programmes for drivers, driver trainers, healthcare providers and DTBSA fleet owners.

Today, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the viability of the trucking industry remains more critical than ever as our economy grapples under the immeasurable effects of this unprecedented season. Of great importance is the health and safety of truck drivers leading the frontline charge in the delivery of goods and services in what has become unusual operating conditions.

It is for this reason that Daimler Trucks & Buses collaborated with the Trucking Wellness Programme to donate 4 000 reusable face masks to truck drivers across South Africa, in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus within the trucking industry.

“As Daimler Trucks & Buses we continue to recognise the importance of the trucking industry on the economy and are therefore extremely honoured to assume responsibility in taking action to fight the spread of the pandemic with this donation,” says Michael Dietz, chief executive officer of DTBSA. “Furthermore, it’s always a pleasure to strengthen and expand the great work undertaken by the Trucking Wellness team, which aligns strongly to our undisputed purpose to keep Africa moving.”

Each truck driver will receive a reusable face mask, which contains a pack of five filters, upon visiting any of the 21 mobile and 21 national fixed roadside wellness centres – located on all major trucking routes and South Africa’s borders.

“This donation is important to Trucking Wellness as it confirms DTBSA’s longstanding commitment to support our health and safety initiatives for the road freight industry,” says Tertius Wessels, managing director of Corridor Empowerment Project – appointed by the NBCRFLI to manage Trucking Wellness on their behalf.

“Handing out face masks of such a good quality further reinforces the value DTBSA places on the well-being of truck drivers. This will certainly serve as a token of appreciation to not only the truck drivers, but also our roadside wellness centres staff, who have worked tirelessly since the introduction of the lockdown.”

The face masks were officially handed over to the Trucking Wellness team by employees of DTBSA on July 9, 2020, at the Roodekop Truck Stop, east of Johannesburg.

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Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is one of the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publications in southern Africa.
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