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Selling your old trucks in Africa

Nov 12, 2018
Steve Jordan interviews Sam Trivedi from Abba’s Autos: a company specialising in the sale of used trucks to Africa where they can be used commercially without environmental restrictions.

Selling your old trucks in Africa

It seems that every month in The Mover we are writing about new clean air regulations
that have come into force somewhere in Europe.  London has had a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in its centre for 10 years and already five further Clean Air Zones (CAZ) are planned for Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton. The government is asking a further 23 local councils in England to produce Local Action Plans where they can consider a CAZ.  New schemes are popping up throughout Europe.

Few people would argue that having clean air to breathe is a basic requirement.  However, there is an impact on the transport sector that is becoming increasingly beleaguered by the increasing regulation.  It’s a problem for every company that runs vehicle fleets but for the moving sector, it’s particularly acute.  Moving vehicles are renowned for their relatively low mileage and, in most cases, movers have a special relationship with their vehicles: they are cared for, some even pampered, allowing them to enjoy many years of faithful service.

Traditionally, larger companies would sell their vehicles on to smaller companies who would put them to useful work for the remainder of their days.  But when it’s necessary to use only the latest vehicles to operate in cities, this becomes difficult.  It’s now not just a matter of image and reliability; now it’s illegal to operate older vehicles, no matter who you are.

At The Mover we started thinking about this problem.  Affording new vehicles is one thing, but selling your old ones is becoming a problem too.  However, not all countries are quite so particular as in Western Europe.  In parts of Africa, for example, having a modern, technically advanced vehicle is a positive handicap.  The fuel quality isn’t up to it and there’s not the expertise to handle the maintenance.  We wondered, therefore, if there was a way of putting these two groups together and did a little Internet trawling.  Sure enough, there is.

There are companies throughout Europe that specialise in buying older vehicles and shipping them out to where they can be used without restriction. We found one such company operating from an industrial estate in Peterborough: Abba’s Autos Ltd.  Curiosity got the better of me.  I hopped into the Nissan and pointed it north on the A1.  I had to find out whether this was a potential resource for movers. 

I arrived unannounced but was, nevertheless, made welcome by Sam Trivedi, one of the company’s partners. Sam is from Tanzania and his partner, Naj, is from Kenya.  They have contacts and offices in Africa and know the markets throughout the continent very well.  They have been in business in the UK for 10 years.

Sam explained that they usually buy vehicles from the large fleet operators and sell them throughout Africa and the Middle East, especially in Jordan, Egypt, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Congo, Mozambique and Malawi.  They buy from everywhere Tanzania is Scania countryin the UK and Ireland.   Most of the vehicles are tractor units, however they are interested in all types of vehicles of all ages.  “Mercedes are most popular in Kenya and Uganda,” said Sam, “but Tanzania is Scania country.” He explained that it’s ended up that way for historical reasons and the operators like these vehicles because there are plenty of parts available and they have the skills to maintain them.

Reliability is key and if a vehicle develops a fault it must be able to be repaired, even in remote areas.  “Even the small villages in Tanzania have parts and mechanics that can fix Scanias,” said Sam.  “If a truck is stuck by the side of the road for long it’s likely to get robbed.”

But they are not restricted to those two makes.  “We have customers who like DAFs,” said Sam, “but we don’t do much with Renaults.”  Although he buys most of his vehicles from large fleet, he’s also interested in single vehicles when they become available.

I asked what engine ratings were most in demand.  Sam said that because the sulphur levels in the available fuel were high his customers generally didn’t want vehicles with technically advanced engines.  “They don’t worry about emissions so we down-rate them before shipping.”  Abba’s Autos will also remove the bodies of some vehicles if they are not required.

There are companies operating in the same way as Abba’s Autos throughout the UK and elsewhere in Europe.  If you have vehicles to sell that are no longer suitable for use owing to the new emission regulations in your home country, sending them to companies in Africa, via a specialist organisation, might well be a realistic option.  Sam was unable to give much of a clue about the prices paid, it depends on the market at the time for each type of truck and its condition, but if the second-hand market does fade in years to come as a result of emission restrictions, selling them abroad might make a lot of sense.

Contact Sam Trivedi on:

Selling your old trucks in Africa

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