Living the acronym

Living the acronym

There’s no doubt about it, trucks play a major part in South Africa’s freight industry – and thus its GDP – but what impact does this have on our environment? JACO DE KLERK takes a look at South Africa’s transport industry from a SHEQ perspective.

According to the National Planning Commission, 89 percent of our country’s freight is transported by road, with the majority of this being moved by trucks … An environmental catastrophe, right? Well, not quite.

Bruce Dickson, CEO of MAN Truck & Bus South Africa, explains that approximately 2,62 kg of CO2 is produced for every litre of diesel burned. “There is thus a directly proportional relationship between reducing fuel consumption and lowering CO2 emissions,” he points out.

And original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), like MAN, are investing huge amounts in research and development to reduce their vehicles’ fuel consumption. A stellar example of this is MAN’s TGS EfficientLine range of truck-tractors.

Last year the company held its South African Consistently Efficient Tour, where the EfficientLine range of longhaul trucks underwent a gruelling 4 200 km economy run around the country to prove that significant fuel savings can be achieved via the fitment of various cost-effective components, which enhance vehicle aerodynamics while lowering auxiliary power consumption and rolling resistance.

By the end of the two-week journey, MAN proved that a 7,8 percent diesel saving can be achieved by its EfficientLine vehicles when compared to the standard range of TGS trucks. At the beginning of the Tour, the company undertook to donate one indigenous tree for every litre of fuel saved to Food & Trees for Africa to offset the event’s carbon footprint. “We have almost run out of trees,” said Dickson. “At the last count, we were sitting at 600.”

Says Geoff du Plessis, MAN’s executive chairman: “Fuel efficiency has always been a key driver in our industry, but today it is absolutely imperative for operators to limit diesel consumption through the procurement of fuel-efficient vehicles.”

These vehicles don’t only hold benefits for the environment, but also for the operators – who (literally) drive our economy – as diesel costs now constitute over 49 percent of their overall operating expenses. With global fuel prices having increased by about 100 percent since 2009, this places additional pressure on profitability levels in an already margin-sensitive industry.

Another OEM taking fuel-efficiency to heart is Mercedes-Benz as two Actros 6×4 truck-tractors, fitted with the latest Mercedes-Benz RT440 hypoid rear axles as standard, have achieved a significant fuel saving of more than five percent – compared to the air-suspended derivative – in test runs in the Eastern Cape.

Christo Kleynhans, Mercedes-Benz truck product manager, explains that each vehicle completed 9 920 km under some of the most extreme conditions on this province’s roads. He adds that South Africa is well-known for its unique operating conditions and a trucking environment that is spread across fleets ranging from first to third world vehicles, which makes for a testing ground suitable for a wide spectrum of applications.

“Due to the outstanding track record of the Mercedes-Benz Testing Department, it was an obvious choice to call on its expertise to perform the comparative test between the new hypoid axles and the existing hub reduction rear axles,” Kleynhans elaborates.

“The new RT440 hypoid rear axles make for the most fuel-efficient Mercdes-Benz 6×4 truck tractor of all time. In fact, the fuel saving achieved on the 2644LS/33 model was 5,67 percent and on the 2654LS/33 was 5,37 percent,” he adds.

However, OEMs aren’t the only ones taking action. Transport operators are also fighting the good SHEQ fight … as the contract between Ezethu Logistics, Cargo Carriers’ empowerment partner, and AfriSam testifies.

This agreement will see Ethuzu transport cement from AfriSam’s Ulco operation near Kimberly, to its readymix facilities in the Western Cape. Ezethu has dedicated eight powder tankers to the contract, which will deliver bulk cement to plants in Bellville, the Cape Peninsula, Cape Town city and Philippi.

Six of the vehicles servicing the contract are driver-owned – with two provided by Ezethu. The company states that each unit will cover 21 500 km per month, bringing down the ratio of units to volume hauled.

But the vehicles allow reduced delivery costs, without compromising reliability or driver safety, by using computerised logistics and vehicle tracking to adhere to a strict shift change-over timetable.

“We’re really ‘sweating the assets’,” says Andre Jansen van Vuuren, divisional director of marketing for Cargo Carriers. “We stay strictly within industry standards for driving times and shift times, but our logistics give us the edge in turnaround times and load monitoring.”

However, safety is paramount when it comes to hauling potentially hazardous materials. “In this day and age, businesses simply can’t afford not to commit to reducing carbon footprints and improving health, quality and safety standards,” says Jansen van Vuuren.

“Apart from compliance with the relevant transport and safety acts, we are upgrading our fleet with reduced-emissions vehicles. We are also active in health and safety monitoring committees and we ensure that our drivers have access to first-class medical treatment in the event of stress, fatigue or loss of concentration,” he adds. The company also maintains contracts with disaster-response firms, ensuring speedy containment and clean-up operations in the event of an accidental spill.

So, South Africa’s transport industry is living the SHEQ acronym as fuel efficiency is paramount – with OEMs taking “general” steps to get more out of their everyday workhorses … Showing that a vehicle doesn’t need to be a hybrid, or run on alternative fuel or electricity to make a difference. And operators are looking after the health and well-being of their drivers.

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SHEQ Management

SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
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