UD Trucks back in bus business

UD Trucks back in bus business

The arrival of the Croner Bus marks UD Trucks Southern Africa’s return to South Africa’s commuter bus industry for the first time since 2017. CLARE PETRA MATTHES attended the Croner Bus launch in KwaZulu-Natal.

The development and launch of the UD Croner Buses have been on the cards since 2019. Covid-19 threw a spanner in the works, however, causing an unwelcome delay.

UD Trucks has been producing trucks in Southern Africa for more than 60 years at its Rosslyn manufacturing facility. In the 1970s the manufacturer started producing buses, introducing the CB20 model followed by the CB30 in the 1980s. The UD60 and UD100, meanwhile, made it to market in the 1990s.

A few decades later, the 2023 launch was held at The Capital Zimbali in KwaZulu-Natal in May. This saw three new variations of the UD Croner Bus revealed: the Croner Bus PKE 280, and the Croner Bus LKE 210 and
LKE 240. These buses are specifically aimed at Southern Africa and address the passenger experience while furnishing the African market with much-needed alternatives.

“We have a clear purpose at UD Trucks and that’s called ‘Better Life’, but in tandem with ‘Better Life’, we strive to be the Japanese sustainability leader come 2025,” says Jacques Michel, senior vice president of UD Trucks international sales.

“The bus industry has changed drastically,” he adds. “The focus is on the comfort of the passengers but also on sustainable solutions. This range of Croner buses is a complete range of products for a defined purpose with all the different applications, but it is also an economical solution.”

The Croner buses hope to fulfil the needs of “something intermediate”, notes Rory Schultz, UD Trucks Southern Africa sales director. “There’s the luxury bus market, while public transportation is also done within the minibus taxi industry,” he points out. For this reason, UD plans to not only serve commuters in the public sector but also, for instance, communities that privately provide buses from a schooling perspective and corporations creating a transportation system to get employees to and from work.

Transport post-Covid has been one of the more resilient sectors in South Africa and trucks have continuously been put to work, says Schultz. “We have a solution, in spite of the challenges that we’ve had from Covid, and then the consequential supply chain challenges. It’s called tenacity,” he stresses. “We need to do what we can to say, ‘here’s a solution’, and make sure we can bring a little bit of what we’ve learned from the ruggedness or resilience of the transport market [to this market].”

“What we’ve tried to do is supply a solution which is efficient, will be sustainable, and is profitable for the customers,” Michel elaborates, asserting that there is demand on the African continent to make sure that the current transport solution can be improved.

Filip Van den Heede, managing director of UD Trucks Southern Africa, says the UD PKE and LKE buses adopt the same architecture as the South African medium-duty UD Croner truck to ensure quality, durability, and class-leading fuel consumption.

The Croner Bus PKE 280 offers reliable, affordable, and comfortable urban transportation to both distant rural areas and urban centres throughout Africa. It has 65 seats plus room for 10 standing passengers. The PKE 280 has a fuel-efficient D8A280 engine, which complies with Euro 3 emission requirements.

The Croner Bus LKE 210 and LKE 240, meanwhile, each have a seating capacity of 40 people and a standing capacity of 12, boasting Euro 5 D5A210 and D5A240 engines respectively.

In South Africa, says Schultz, UD trucks are put to the test in uncertain conditions on varying types of roads. The decision, therefore, was to take the successful UD truck concept and apply it to the UD bus design to provide a very durable solution.

“Safety is critical,” says Graham Kolm, general manager for emerging markets at UD Trucks Southern Africa, pointing to the encasing of a stainless steel structure as a key design element. “If there’s an accident, the stainless steel will not collapse. It is flexible, protecting your commuters,” he expands.

The Croner Bus design places a high priority on elements like passenger comfort and safety. For instance, bus doorways are illuminated for increased safety and visibility. Full-length handrails add to its ergonomic characteristics and safety by supporting standing passengers, preventing them from falling while the vehicle is on the move. In addition to the driver’s seatbelt, passenger seats have a lap-style safety belt to guard against unexpected stops or crashes.

The air suspension system on PKE 280 (air sus) buses is electronically regulated, enhancing driving comfort and improving vehicle ergonomics. To keep the bus balanced while in motion, the system automatically adjusts the chassis height and adjusts weight distribution.

Part of the vehicle health monitoring function, UD Telematics combines customer and dealer telematics and shows all crucial alarms from the buses. This ensures that whenever necessary, the bus can be in the workshop in time to guarantee optimal client uptime. Prompted by UD’s trucking background, Van den Heede says this telematics system can help operators improve the efficiency of the vehicle. Another benefit for passengers is the presence of USB charging ports between the seats.

Concerning the positioning of the bus, it was always UD’s philosophy to offer value for money. “We had to make sure that our positioning matches what the customer is willing to pay,” says Schultz. “When it comes to additional AI or the communication or connectivity, depending on any particular bus’s application it is 100% possible for us to add whatever connectivity (or level of connectivity) is needed to make the customer happy.”

Croner Bus model line-up


LKE 210/240 bus

PKE 280 bus (air sus)

PKE 280 bus (leaf sus)

Seating capacity

40 passengers

65 passengers

65 passengers

Standing capacity

10 passengers

10 passengers

10 passengers


Power (kW @ r/min)

GH5E: 158/177 @ 2200

GH8E : 206 @ 2200

GH8E : 206 @ 2200


Torque (Nm @ r/min)

825/900 @ 1100 – 1700

1 050 @ 1100 – 1700

1050 @ 1100 – 1700



Allison 2500

Allison 3000

Allison 3000

Axle ratings (kg)

Front Axle

5 500

7 100

7 100


Rear Axle

9 500

11 000

11 000

GVM (kg)


15 000

17 000

17 000

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Focus on Transport

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