Driving the introduction of clean fuels legislation, which will facilitate the use of extra-heavy and heavy commercial vehicles emitting low carbon emissions, and the localisation of some truck parts and components, are key areas being pursued by the Heavy Commercial Vehicle Division of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa).
“While initial indications were that the clean fuels legislation – or the use of Euro V-compliant clean fuels – would be effective as of July 1, 2017, indications are now that this legislation will be delayed,” says Daimler Trucks and Buses executive director Kobus van Zyl, who also chairs the committee.
The challenge, he argues, is that truck manufacturers and suppliers are unable to introduce these newer clean fuel-compliant Euro V or Euro VI vehicles to the local market.
Van Zyl believes that the lack of legislation, as well as the delayed availability of clean fuel, consequently puts the local market at a significant disadvantage, as companies cannot implement new technologies on trucks that significantly enhance safety, materially reduce fuel consumption and improve their carbon footprint.
Therefore, Van Zyl stresses the need for all stakeholders to collaborate to ensure that clean fuels are legislated and made available across the country as soon as possible.
“This will enable truck owners to benefit from the aforementioned advantages, while truck manufacturers and suppliers could introduce additional ranges of new models, such as the Euro V and Euro VI trucks, which are available worldwide,” he suggests.
According to Naamsa, mostly Euro II- legislated trucks are currently available on the market. However, some truck manufacturers have introduced Euro III and Euro IV trucks, where the availability of clean fuel has been ensured.
Meanwhile, the Heavy Commercial Vehicle Committee remains focused on exploring opportunities to locally manufacture certain components shared by truck manufacturers.
Engineering News reported in March that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has issued the guidelines of its proposed Medium and Heavy Commercial Vehicle Automotive Investment Scheme, which also proposes financial support for local assembly and content – with greater localisation expectations.
“Naamsa has, therefore, appointed a task team to manage this focus area and is engaging with the DTI to ensure that the localisation of parts in South Africa is improved,” Van Zyl says.
Truck manufacturers Fuso, Volvo, Renault, Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner, MAN, Tata, Isuzu Trucks, Hino, Volvo, Hyundai, FAW and UD Trucks currently assemble vehicles in South Africa.
Despite the overall decline in the automotive market, particularly extra-heavy commercial vehicles, the medium commercial vehicle and bus divisions have remained fairly stable, Van Zyl notes.
As of the end of last month – for the first time since 2009 – the overall market has declined year-on-year. In September, new heavy truck and bus sales were down by 8.9% to 2 002 units, according to the DTI.
Further, the sale of new light commercial vehicles, bakkies and minibuses, at 15 121 units, improved by 0.3%, while sales of medium trucks, at 890 units, contracted by 1.3%.
However, Van Zyl points out that demand for extra-heavy commercial vehicles improved because of ongoing road and industrial property infrastructure construction, commercial property developments, such as the Mall of Africa, in Midrand, Gauteng, and tenders issued by government for large infrastructure projects.
“Moreover, the need for municipal services, such as public transport services like the bus rapid transit (BRT) systems, are supported by preferential procurement by government, thereby further boosting the demand for buses,” he says.
While Van Zyl believes that the BRT activity is currently lower, compared with activity during the last two years, the bus division has shown the highest growth in the auto- motive market.
Nevertheless, he predicts “a flat market, at best,” for the next year, adding that the current economic downturn will continue in the medium term, as a result of a low business confidence index and an economic downturn, the impact of the dollar strength on the import industry and increasing competitiveness among manufacturers.