The FAW fleet is always kept in pristine condition to help ensure the company’s reputation. Picture: FAW SA
The FAW fleet is always kept in pristine condition to help ensure the company’s reputation. Picture: FAW SA

Based in Cape Town, Portland is part of the Portland Group of companies, which focuses on the construction industry.

The company produces aggregates from the natural Malmesbury Hornfels deposits in its 65-hectare quarry in Durbanville and also provides a range of concretes to large construction sites, shopping malls and office blocks, as well as to residential properties and low-cost housing projects.

In 2008, it expanded to include manufacturing, installation and transport of precast hollow core slabs, which it handles through its specialised Hollowcore division.

Today the family business, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2018, owns a total of 27 FAW trucks. Each of these vehicles is supplied with a full maintenance contract, which FAW Cape Town takes care of.

While the company was the first in the city to take delivery of a FAW 33.420FT recently, the first batch of FAW trucks it ever bought happened eight years ago. It is now on its third buying cycle with the company.

"There were two important factors for us — purchase price and quality of the backup provided," explains Portland’s MD Nico Heyns. "Of these two factors, after-sales backup is the most important to me."

Apart from the quarry, Portland also runs a number of FAW 28.380 FT 6x4 truck tractors with flat deck trailers up and down the Cape peninsula with payloads of up to 28 tonnes, and gross combined mass (GCM) of about 63 tonnes.

Some of the FAW ready-mix trucks in operation. Picture: FAW SA
Some of the FAW ready-mix trucks in operation. Picture: FAW SA

Heyns initially bought six FAW 28.380FTs equipped with flat deck trailers as a trial to test the brand and its products first hand. "I was impressed after analysing the fuel consumption figures and calculating the parts and maintenance costs. FAW’s warranty promise and level of service backup confirmed my decision )— that’s why the fleet has been converted to the FAW brand exclusively," Heyns says.

While most of its ready-mix vehicles do not drive long distances, the terrain in the company’s quarry is steep, with long inclines, and it is highly demanding on the vehicles that operate in it. Also, ready-mix concrete cannot be left to harden inside vehicle drums. It is delicate to both handle and transport. Vehicle breakdowns are out of the question.

This is partly why Portland has adopted a strict truck renewal policy which sees it trade in its trucks every three years for new vehicles. This ensures maximum uptime is achieved. Truck maintenance is set at 300-hour intervals, with the FAW trucks working 12 hours per day, five days a week.

Apart from the full maintenance contracts, FAW Cape Town provides the company with an on-site technician, whose job it is to sort out minor electrical issues and the like, as they occur.

Portland has become well-known in the province for its impeccable fleet of mixer trucks, which are always clean and in pristine condition. Apart from creating an impressive corporate identity, its strict maintenance procedure means the demand for used Portland trucks is extremely good in the Western Cape, due to the fact they are so well looked after.

The company now owns 27 FAW trucks. Picture: FAW SA
The company now owns 27 FAW trucks. Picture: FAW SA

Heyns explains that he first heard about the FAW brand after reading up about the company. Back in 2014, Portland and other key FAW customers travelled to China to visit the FAW drum and engine factories for themselves. Haynes says the visit drastically changed his opinion of Chinese trucks and the quality of Chinese products in general.

"FAW are also prepared to listen to us to solve our problems. We have given them input on the trucks and they have responded to this feedback positively," he says.

A Chinese FAW delegation was later sent to SA to view Heyns’ vehicles and make technical changes as per his unique requirements.

"They were able to change the wheelbase to ensure that no overloading is taking place, as per South African legislation. This is critical for us because our trucks cannot leave the quarry in an illegal or unroadworthy condition."

Over the years the Heyns family have enjoyed a cordial relationship with Vernon Rudman, dealer principal at FAW Cape Town. Rudman visits the company frequently and has celebrated several milestones with the Heyns family.

"FAW Cape Town and Vernon are always available and willing to help us. As customers, we appreciate that we can speak to senior management if needs be. Usually this is not necessary, as FAW Cape Town is perfectly capable of handling any concerns we may have. Overall, we have an excellent working relationship with each other," Heyns says.