A closer FOCUS on Trailers

The new and used vehicle market experienced various fluctuations in sales figures in 2017. Nkosini Ngwenya investigates how these may have impacted the trailer and bodies market and what to expect in 2018.

The trailer and bodies market in South Africa is closely related to the vehicle sales market, as an increase in the vehicle market has a positive ripple effect on the trailer and bodies market. As such, the fluctuations in the vehicle market in 2017 had a major impact in the trailer and bodies market.

This sentiment is affirmed by Clinton Holcroft, MD at Serco Industries, who points out that 2017 was a challenging year overall for most trucking and trailer companies. “In 2017, Serco saw a reduction of ten percent in volume due to capex trimming,” he says.

Nevertheless, 2017 saw a new Protec-steel refrigerated vehicle body, the Serco Frostliner Protec Steel, introduced to the market.

The panels of this proudly South African product are manufactured using coated steel facings, which resulted in noticeable improvements in thermal performance and panel strength when tested by the newly established South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) thermal test chamber for refrigerated vehicle bodies. Serco has completed 50 Frostliners to date.

Warren Marques, MD at Paramount Trailers, notes: “The fluctuations in the trucking industry in 2017 resulted in a similar scenario playing out with trailers, particularly new trailers.

“There was no real growth experienced in the new trailer market, save for forced replacements, but the second-hand market was very buoyant. Most companies chose to refurbish their current fleet and then bought second-hand when forced to. New contracts were generally serviced by new trailers.”

He explains: “With buyers opting for used trailers, it is worth noting that in 2017 tautliners and side tippers where in huge demand, as they are considered more secure and safer than flat decks.”

This is of huge importance in the African trucking market considering the safety and security-related concerns plaguing the continent. On the other hand, the flat-deck trailer market was rather quiet by comparison.

Deciding which type of a trailer to buy depends heavily on what the type of load it will be carrying. According to Delano Boshoff, public relations and marketing at Henred Fruehauf/SA Truck Bodies, customer needs differ and this affects the price and type of trailer that is purchased.

Tautliners are more effective for transporting a wide variety of goods ranging from timber, machinery, pipes, steel and iron to fruits, and vegetables. The enclosed environment provided by curtain sides protects goods from wind, sun and rain damage, making tautliners a viable option for transporting perishables and non-perishables.

A truck with curtain sides also allows for easy loading and off-loading of goods on either side of the tautliner. On the other hand, the tipper trailers (side and rear) are more effective in the recycling, agricultural and construction industries.

The pricing of trailers is an important factor to be kept in mind going into 2018. There is a huge variance in the pricing of both new and used trailers, depending on a number of factors such as size, age and kilometres.

“Using a weighted average in terms of volumes and pricing, I would estimate around R380 000 being an average price to pay for a used trailer. The cheapest used trailer will cost around R250 000, and the most expensive new trailer would be R1 200 000 or more,” avers Marques.

The costs associated with maintaining and keeping a trailer on the road must also be taken into account. Maintenance costs for trailers are heavily affected by the age and kilometres travelled.

On average, transporters can expect to pay around R40 000 per year to service a trailer. The greater part of this is spent on tyres. However, Marques warns that these prices are likely to increase in 2018 and, as such, buyers should exercise caution.

Boshoff notes: “Prices and maintenance costs vary between the application and the type of trailer.”

When it comes to the maintenance of refrigerated bodies, Holcroft warns: “When customers postpone the replacement of boxes, water ingress causes reduced thermal efficiency. Refrigerated bodies should be inspected daily to avoid major damage and to save on maintenance costs.”

Marques says buyers of new and used trailers should be informed and discerning when making a purchase. “Buy wisely. Don’t always go for the cheapest option without first assessing the full condition and history of the trailer. Otherwise you will get what you pay for,” he concludes.

Holcroft agrees with this advice and cautions customers to choose carefully. “Do not neglect maintenance of a trailer or refrigerated body. Regular maintenance equals longevity,” he concludes.

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

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