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Trucking trends you can expect to hit South African roads in 2024

Volvo launched its complete electric range to the South African market in June this year.
Volvo launched its complete electric range to the South African market in June this year.
Image: Supplied

The past century saw few changes to trucks; their appearances were unaltered and they were all powered by diesel engines.

However, this century has witnessed a shake-up. The transport industry is enjoying one innovation after the next; anything and everything from electric trucks to those with fuel cells and even those without drivers.

But which of these innovations can you expect to see on South African roads in 2024?

Mercedes-Benz Trucks recently launched the new eActros 600 overseas and it’s capable of 500km without recharging.
Mercedes-Benz Trucks recently launched the new eActros 600 overseas and it’s capable of 500km without recharging.
Image: Supplied

Electric trucks

While South Africa is trailing some other markets in the rollout of electric commercial vehicles — China, for example, saw 36,000 electric trucks sold in 2022 — the country is not stuck in the 20th century. Some electric trucks are already being sold locally.

Volvo, for example, is selling its FH Electric, which has just been named the 2024 International Truck of the Year. Volvo launched its complete electric range to the South African market in June last year and South Africans will see more of these trucks on the roads.

“Due to their generally limited range of about 200km, electric trucks will mainly be used for urban routes, in-city deliveries and local to regional deliveries. Long-distance deliveries using electric trucks are not expected in South Africa this year,” says Ryan Gaines, CEO of City Logistics, a leading privately-owned logistics company in South Africa.

However, this is a future possibility; Mercedes-Benz Trucks recently launched the new eActros 600 overseas and it’s capable of 500km without recharging.

A fuel cell truck is an electric truck that generates electricity from fuel cells that are powered by hydrogen stored in tanks.
A fuel cell truck is an electric truck that generates electricity from fuel cells that are powered by hydrogen stored in tanks.
Image: Supplied

Alternative energy sources

The electric trucks on South Africa’s roads will be joined by vehicles powered by gas — specifically compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas — and fuel cell trucks. A fuel cell truck is an electric truck that generates electricity from fuel cells powered by hydrogen stored in tanks. In a fuel cell, hydrogen and oxygen are combined through an electrochemical reaction to generate electricity, heat and water.

More of these models are being brought to South Africa for testing and South Africans will see medium, heavy and extra heavy trucks such as this on the country’s roads (anything from 14-tonne rigids to 4x2, 6x2 and 6x4 truck tractors).

South Africa is, however, still a Euro 2 market (Euro 2 is an emission standard with petrol CO2 limits of 2.2g/km and diesel 1.0g/km respectively; Europe is on Euro 6).

“But some local companies don’t want to simply meet the bare minimum in emissions. The alternative fuel vehicles will appeal to companies aligned to a long-term sustainability journey until regulations are implemented to create a minimum standard for the logistics industry,” said Gaines.

With the introduction of eco-operations such as rechargeable electric forklifts, City Logistics has introduced energy-saving systems, using power-efficient units, reducing fuel consumption in its warehousing operations. The use of reverse logistics and inter-branch transfers also means its fleet is used even on return trips, thus saving fuel. In the interim, while new energy vehicles are established in South Africa, City Logistics will continue to use the most efficient models to minimise its carbon emissions.

South Africa's road infrastructure is not set up to accommodate autonomous vehicles.
South Africa's road infrastructure is not set up to accommodate autonomous vehicles.
Image: Supplied

Autonomous vehicles

While there will be increased volumes of Euro 4, 5 and 6 vehicles on South African roads, the good news — for truck drivers — is South Africa is not going to see autonomous trucks any time soon because the road infrastructure is not set up to accommodate these vehicles, nor has legislation been promulgated to allow it.

Features such as lane guidance and collision avoidance are fast becoming standard features in newer truck models.
Features such as lane guidance and collision avoidance are fast becoming standard features in newer truck models.
Image: Supplied

Safety innovation comes standard

More good news is there will be safer trucks on South African roads in 2024 — and into the future. Global truck manufacturers are constantly striving to introduce innovative safety features and, whereas in the past many were optional extras, features such as lane guidance and collision avoidance are fast becoming standard features in the newer models released. 


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