Clinton Holcroft, managing director of truck-and-trailer-building firm Serco, which has its head office in KwaZulu-Natal, is upbeat about the economy in 2019. Supplied
Durban - A leading South African trailer-and- truck-building company is confident about the economic outlook for 2019, with an already buoyant order book for the year and plans to grow export sales.

Serco managing director, Clinton Holcroft, attributed the firm’s strong business performance to tight cost control and the demand for its Protec steel refrigerated vehicles.

“People in the industry continue to be impressed with the durability of the coated-steel panels. They also like the newly introduced rice grain aluminium floor which has proved to be a popular high-wearing feature,” said Holcroft.

Other features include welded aluminium scuffs which create a durable, waterproof and strong structure; and new door seals made of an extruded rubber material providing a thermal barrier, preventing the leakage of cold air. Also, repair costs to the coated-steel vehicles are relatively low.

Established in New Germany in 1982 with five staff, the business, which builds truck and trailer bodies, moved to a larger factory in Phoenix in the mid-1990s, where it has its national head office and technical division. The business later invested in adjoining properties and built a new hi-tech manufacturing operation in 2017.

Today the firm also has branches in Bellville in the Western Cape and Boksburg in Gauteng, supplying clients nationally in major fast-moving consumer goods and retail firms such as National Brands, Shoprite and Spar. The firm has the infrastructure to build and repair at all three its branches.

Holcroft said the slow economy and volatile rand had put pressure on Serco lastyear, but there had been positive growth for the company thanks to its advanced panel-manufacturing technology. “Serco has also created new positions for a process improvement manager and a quality engineer to build on the continuous improvement culture in the company.

Holcroft said the firm had ended the year on a positive note with full order books, and that orders for the new year were positive.

“The economic forecast for the South African economy for 2019 is another year of marginal growth but we remain optimistic, especially with efforts being made to root out government corruption and the recent investment summit, which I believe will combine to help create a more enabling relationship between business and the government,” he said.

“Serco will continue working with customers to find tangible solutions for transport challenges, reducing costs and improving efficiency. Our new Protec steel panels are the answer for improved durability and reducing long-term running cost.”

Holcroft said customers were increasingly anxious to improve the thermal performance of their refrigerated vehicles. “With our new injected-foam technique for manufacturing panels, there’s more than a 20% improvement in thermal performance over our previous model. The significance of this is a reduced load on the fridge - a big plus factor for customers.”

On the issue of high fuel costs, Holcroft said transporters remained under pressure but were hoping for some reversals this year. “But the high cost of fuel creates opportunities for innovation,” he pointed out.

The Mercury