Tyres manufactured with taxi industry in mind

17th February 2017

Last month, rubber manufacturer Sumitomo Rubber South Africa (SRSA) announced the launch of its new range of Dunlop tyres – the Vantrek V1 White Wall tyre for the South African taxi industry.

SRSA highlights that this is a range of tyre products developed specifically for the South African taxi industry – a previously untapped market for Dunlop in South Africa.

“Marketed with the bold position ‘Ungalethemba’ – which in Zulu refers to something in which you can put your trust – this latest addition to the Dunlop stable indeed gives taxi motorists and commuters alike reasons to believe in the product,” says the company.

The Vantrek V1 White Wall tyre caters for the needs of thousands commuting on a daily basis in South Africa, performing in all conditions but especially in wet weather.

Mileage has also been taken into consideration. The tyre has been designed to be a “tyre partner” that provides good value across the life of the tyre by meeting the rigorous needs of taxis that cover expansive daily distances.

In terms of durability, such tyres carry heavy loads across a number of different routes, including city centres, highways and rural dirt roads. The product is strengthened to perform under such conditions, while it withstands the impact of gravel, large stones and other hazardous objects.

The tyre embodies an aesthetic that will appeal to South Africa’s taxi industry – from the rugged tread pattern to the distinguished white wall itself.

Dunlop points out that, of the taxis currently on the South African roads, over 78% use a white wall tyre, an element that has become synonymous with taxis in South Africa. Dunlop researched the best tyre to suit this market, so important to the South African economy as a whole.

In addition to these factors, the new Vantrek V1 tyre embodies updated tread pattern features. It has a wide and flat tread for better wear resistance and a reduction in the shoulder wear, so that the tyre lasts longer. It also has a blocked pattern in the centre rib for better traction in the wet, on gravel and on unpaved surfaces. Moreover, its three wide straight grooves assist with water evacuation and improve on wet handling, as the deeper the grooves are the longer the tread life is.

Dunlop adds that the rigid shoulder construction and grooves around the shoulder area assist in protecting the tyre from flying stones and other hazardous items that may otherwise chip and cut the shoulder of the tyre.

Over 100 taxi drivers across the major metropolitan areas were surveyed on potential tread patterns to be used for the Dunlop Vantrek V1 and the selected pattern came out top with more than half of the votes. The main reason given was that the tyre looked strong – a characteristic supported by recent testing.

The Vantrek V1 was tested in Dunlop’s modern testing facilities to the Economic Commission for Europe Regulation 54 high-speed standard (the recognised international standard).

To test the relative strength of the tyre in extreme situations, the test was then repeated in conditions that would create abnormal stresses on the tyre at high speeds. In this case, at a 20% overload and 15% under-inflation relative to the regulatory technical standards for this product, the Vantrek still exceeded the regulatory high speed standard.

One-million Injury Free Hours
In October, SRSA achieved one-million lost-time-injury- (LTI-) free hours at current expansion projects under way at its production plant in the industrial hub of Danskraal, Ladysmith. This is also 713 days – and counting – without a lost-time accident.

Joint venture (JV) contractors on the project – construction companies Stefanutti Stocks Building KwaZulu-Natal and Ladysmith Construction – are pleased with the milestone, citing safety as a big priority not only for themselves, but also the tyre manufacturer.

“These LTI-free hours is a notable safety milestone to have achieved, especially when one considers that we commenced construction at the site back in 2014,” says Stefanutti Stocks Building KwaZulu-Natal alternate director Mark Stewart.

He notes that, during this two-year period (2014 to 2016), the JV had less than ten minor first aid cases, most of which required little more than plaster treatment.

Dunlop’s existing manufacturing plant was established in 1973. Shortly after being acquired by Japan-based investors Sumitomo Rubber Industries, the company took the decision to modernise and expand the manufacturing facility.

Construction commenced in October 2014, with Phase 1 of the project (known as Project Sunrise), valued at R1.1-billion. The company then announced a further R970-million in March last year (Project Southern Cross), taking its total investment in the factory upgrade and expansion to R2-billion. At present, the project has employed 15 subcontractors, with an excess of 350 combined workers on site.

SRSA CEO Riaz Haffejee says this achievement was a reflection of the commitment by all contractors to one of SRSA’s key priorities – safety.

“At SRSA, safety comes first and this achievement is a wonderful proof point of the importance of safety and how it is not underestimated, which resonates with our people at all levels.”