By David Poggiolini
South Africa’s line haul industry is on par with those of First World countries. This is also evidenced by the industry’s heightened focus on safety, which has become the most important consideration for many line haul operators when purchasing new trucks.
“The industry has evolved at a significant pace over the years. Previously, buying decisions were predominantly driven by the bottom-line, with productivity and efficiency the main focus for road transport logistics operators. While safety was always an important consideration for road-haulage companies, it is now the principal driver behind truck purchasing decisions. Productivity and efficiency, although still critical considerations, play a secondary role in decision making,” Maretha Gerber, Vice President: Sales and Marketing of Daimler Trucks & Buses Southern Africa, tells Cape Business News.
Mercedes-Benz Trucks has retained a leading position in the heavy-duty truck market segment for two consecutive years now. The company has continuously exceeded its expectations of capturing a significant share of this segment of the market. This exceptional performance can be attributed to, among others, the company’s ongoing commitment to safety. Mercedes-Benz Trucks’ focus on safety spans other road users and the truck driver through to the cargo that is being transported over long distances. This is in addition to safeguarding against fuel theft.
Certainly, the uptake of the new generation Mercedes-Benz Actros by the country’s top third-party logistics providers since its launch four years ago bears testament to the level of sophistication of the South African line haul industry.
Gerber says, “It has demonstrated once again that the industry, including the skills of our drivers, is also of an exceptionally high standard. This has also been corroborated by our parent company in Germany. While there have been doubts about the suitability of very sophisticated truck technology for local operators, the popularity of the new generation Actros dispels this notion. The only factor that prevents us from launching the latest international truck technology in South Africa is the current emission legislation in South Africa. We first need legislation regarding clean fuels in the country to enable the launch of these technologies in the country. Unfortunately, the introduction of such legislation has been delayed, despite the tremendous fuel efficiency gains that are achievable using our latest truck technology. This is not to mention the significant positive impact that these technologies will have on the environment by reducing the carbon footprint of road transportation.”
Among the latest innovation from the company that is helping to improve driver performance, including safety, is Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC). PPC integrates a driving style that is optimised for the route topography into the operation of the truck’s automated transmission. The system also utilises 3D maps, optimising shift points, gear steps and set cruise control speed. Kinetic energy that is generated by the truck is used to avoid unnecessary acceleration, shifting or braking. This means that cruise control can be used in just about any driving situation.
Meanwhile, MirrorCam technology has also significantly improved driver visibility outside and inside the cab. When the truck is moving forward in a bend, a camera on the inner side of the curve pans so that the driver always has a clear view of the end of the trailer. When manoeuvring in reverse, the MirrorCam switches to a special moving view, also displaying distant areas in the vicinity of the truck in their correct scale. This view is automatically activated when the vehicle is placed in reverse gear and remains displayed in forward gear up to a speed of 10 km/h or until deactivated. By removing the large external mirrors that often hinder visibility, the driver also has an unobstructed view in front of the vehicle.
Gerber concludes that the state of roads and safety in the country remains of concern and that truck original equipment manufacturers – as a vital component of the road transport logistics value chain – have a large role to play in helping to improve the situation. “We are also playing our part by providing the correct truck for specific applications. This, in turn, is strengthening the South African transport logistics industry, the lifeblood of the economy. A strong economy will also bolster government which will then be in a better position to enforce road safety and improve our deteriorating road network.”