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Transport operator designs innovative dual-purpose trailer for Zambian mine
April 28, 2011 - A Bright idea has sparked the development of a new, world-first dual-purpose trailer, able to reduce transport costs by around 20%. The Bucksta trailer is the brainchild of Buks van Rensburg of Buks Haulage Limited (BHL), which operates in Zambia’s copper mining belt. The trailer is a hybrid tanker/tipper, able to carry copper concentrate on one leg of the journey, and sulphuric acid, necessary for copper processing, on the return trip. This eliminates the costly headache of delivering the goods and then returning empty-handed. “Mining company First Quantum Minerals put out a transport tender, asking for a solution, and we came up with the right solution. We were able to tender at a lower price than the competition, because we could eliminate the cost of empty transport legs,” explains Van Rensburg. “We were able to offer our client a cost saving of 20%.” But doesn’t a dual-purpose trailer diminish the trailer’s payload capacity? Only by a small margin, promises Van Rensburg. A standard empty trailer weighs in at 18 t, he explains, which means it can carry 32 t before it reaches the legal limit of 50 t. The weight limitations in Zambia are the same as in South Africa. The Bucksta trailer weighs in at 21,3 t, which means it can carry 28,5 t of either sulphuric acid, or 28,5 t of copper concentrate in the tipper section. “So yes, the payload is a little bit smaller, but this is more than offset by the fact that it allows for a full load in both directions,” says Van Rensburg. As for the cost of the trailer, he says his design compares favourably with other single-purpose trailers. “A stainless steel tanker costs around R650 000, and a tipper R400 000. The Bucksta costs roughly R680 000.” Van Rensburg says the biggest challenge in designing the trailer was to ensure the correct weight distribution over the axles. BHL built two prototypes of the Bucksta, with another 15 to follow. These are being built by South Africa’s Top Trailers. The 15 units currently in production will be used for the First Quantum Minerals contract, with the two prototypes to be tested by another mine, located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “If this experiment proves successful, we will have another order for 50 trailers.” However, these 50 units will consist of two tankers, and a flatbed section (not a tipper), as this client wishes to transport copper plates. It also allows for the transport of a 20-ft container. The potential 50-unit order will go to trailer manufacturer Henred Fruehauf Trailers. Using different manufacturers serves to protect Van Rensburg’s invention, as he decided against patenting the design. “Someone would inevitably change something small and build their own trailer. “I wanted to corner the market as soon as possible, so I am spreading the production around, and I am signing six-year exclusivity agreements with the mines.” Van Rensburg believes the Bucksta can find more applications in transporting manganese and molasses, cooking oil and grain, and chrome and liquid fertiliser. Van Rensburg operates a 75-unit fleet. BHL had a turnover of around R140-million in 2010. Van Rensburg started working life as a truck driver, then migrated to owning his own transport business, with a starter-fleet of two trucks.