SERCO Industries celebrates 40-year milestone

Clinton Holcroft – CEO of SERCO Industries in South Africa – says the only thing we can say about the future with certainty is that there will always be more crises, it’s how we respond and adapt that determines if we will come through stronger or not.

Founded in 1981 from humble beginnings as a family business, SERCO has grown exponentially into one of South Africa’s leading and most trusted insulated and dry freight truck body and trailer building companies.

SERCO is based on a cornerstone philosophy: As it strives to help clients grow and prosper so, too, does it grow and prosper. The company name was derived from ‘service company’ to reflect its committed focus on service to the transport industry.

Today, Clinton Holcroft runs the business as CEO, while his father, and company founder, Trevor, serves as Chairman.

“In the early days SERCO was known for going the extra mile against larger competitors and being infamous for the annual SERCO thrash, a huge party for truckers,” said Clinton Holcroft. “In more recent times investments have been made into 3D technical design software and new panel

manufacturing technology. The business has branched out by growing dry freight truck body sales, pre-owned trailer sales and operates a small fleet of rental refrigerated semi-trailers. We are a supplier to leading retailers and transporters within South Africa and neighbouring African countries.”

More than 400 staff currently work for SERCO at branches in Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Gqeberha (PE).

SERCO Industries CEO, Clinton Holcroft.

From the beginning, SERCO’s vision has been to manufacture great vehicle bodies and products that benchmark well against international standards, enabling low lifecycle costs for the transport industry while providing its customers with a competitive edge.

“SERCO’s vehicles are relied on by many of Southern Africa’s transport and long-distance hauliers to carry everything from ice cream to day-old chicks, from beef to bread – safely and hygienically,” said Clinton Holcroft. “The company has an enviable nation-wide reputation for quality and innovation in truck bodies and trailers and an unrivalled customer service ethic.”

SERCO is focused on expanding its product range to more broadly cover the transport of dry freight and is introducing curtainsiders, cargo van bodies and drop side flat deck bodies.

“We are also in initial trials for a smart trailer concept developed in partnership with Ikhaya Automation and Mix Telematics to enable customers to interface with the trailer for maintenance data,” said Clinton Holcroft.

The OEM also designs and manufactures refrigerated truck bodies and trailers (FrostLiner and composite); meat carriers; dry freight truck bodies and trailers (DryLiner and composite); interlink trailer combinations, special purpose vehicles for promotional events, medical applications, theatre and mobile broadcasting; steel single skin cargo van bodies; drop side bodies and curtain-side truck bodies and trailers.

The SERCO FrostLiner was awarded a gold medal for thermal performance at Automechanika Johannesburg 2019 and is the first reefer in South Africa to meet SABS standards for thermal performance of frozen goods (based on the European ATP standards).

The SABS ATP parameter is 0.4kw – the Protec Steel FrostLiner trailer tested achieved an outstanding 0.36kw. Features include improved thermal performance of up to 40 per cent, reduced carbon impact on the environment, improved product shelf life and reduced load loss.

“The panels on this trailer build are the company’s latest innovation, manufactured using coated steel facings delivered to SERCO in five-tonne coils,” said Clinton Holcroft. “Customised machinery designed specifically for the new process includes a panel turnover device for assembly and a clinching machine to join the coated steel facings into a single, full length sheet which is then lifted, using a spreader crane with suction cups, to transfer the sheets of up to 15.5m in length into the 900-tonne panel press. A state-of-the-art system then mixes the Polyol and Isocyanate with an environmentally friendly blowing agent to create a high density polyurethane foam which is injected into the panel. Testing has been extensive and we have achieved noticeable improvements in thermal performance and panel strength, which reflect our ongoing quest for innovation and our commitment to industry-leading standards of product quality. The FrostLiner trailer, a proudly South African product manufactured according to international standards at our factory site in Durban, is supported by our national repair divisions.”

SERCO has also seen accelerated growth in online purchases of food products and general products which are generally picked at store level and distributed directly to individual homes where quick turnaround has been a priority.

“The surge in online shopping since the outbreak of Covid-19 has resulted in SERCO now offering purpose-built vehicles to deliver goods to front doors,” said Clinton Holcroft. “Orders for lightweight bodies – which vary in length from 2.3m to 8.5m – have grown and there is potential for further business. Similarly, the security of vehicle load is also a high priority for South African transporters who are putting in cameras and telematics systems to counter shrinkage during transit. To some extent we have been able to incorporate the wiring requirements into our panel construction to accommodate the fitment of such accessories. Over the next decade I believe we will see a lot more use of telematics to improve efficiencies in maintaining trailers. In the past it was quite expensive but what we are seeing now is technology becoming more affordable. All this is very positive for reducing wear and tear on the vehicle as well as improving safety and reducing running costs.”

SERCO also offers pre-owned refrigerated trailers which can be refurbished and rebranded to meet a customer’s requirements.

“We have 10 refrigerated semi-trailers which are available to rent inclusive of maintenance,” said Clinton Holcroft. “Rentals and pre-owned trailers have seen steady demand due to the need for flexibility by transporters as well as the high capital cost for new rigs. We also have a full range of trailer and truck body spares, these are generally stored centrally at our main facility in Durban. We offer a basket of popular spares at our various branches. This includes load securing solutions, Whiting roll over doors and the usual vehicle body spares. In addition to spare parts we have opted to provide repair divisions in the major centres around South Africa to support our product. This enables us to service our customers at locations convenient to them. We also offer limited onsite repair services for larger fleets where down time can be minimised, and the box integrity maintained through timely attention when required.”

SERCO also offers load restraint accessories, having partnered with LoadLok since 2017 to distribute their full range in South Africa.

“We saw the need for better load securing solutions,” said Clinton Holcroft. “With LoadLok being a leader in Europe we decided that partnering with them to introduce their products to South Africa would be beneficial.”

The OEM offers a range of load securing bars, rails and straps in conjunction with LoadLok.

“We developed with LoadLok the ‘Captive load securing system’ for local customers after finding they were experiencing challenges with load securing bars which often went missing and as a result the loads were not being well secured causing product damage,” said Clinton Holcroft. “Local transporters also wanted a solution which was flexible to handle rolltainers and or pallets. The system has adjustable moveable load securing bars, fitted in a wall mounted track. The bars are non removeable from the vehicle. A turning device enables the bar to be stowed when not required. To date we have fitted over a 100 such Captive systems to various size truck bodies and trailers.”

Reflecting on SERCO’s history, Clinton Holcroft is proud to see how far the family business has come.

“We are immensely grateful to our customers and our SERCO team, who without their support we would not be here,” he said. “Our core purpose of giving transporters the edge speaks to our drive for continuous improvement, innovation and delivering low lifecycle costs to our customers.”

Durban-based City Logistics expands fleet with SERCO Industries’ truck bodies
SERCO has supplied 17 DryLiner bodies for Durban-based City Logistics to add to its wide-ranging fleet, as well as an additional 16 demountable DryLiners.

City Logistics has established a comprehensive distribution network operating throughout South Africa and into neighbouring countries such as Botswana and Namibia. Daily operations – involving the 450-strong distribution fleet – include deliveries to major shopping centres as well as overnight road freight services.

The linehaul division boasts a fleet of more than 500 vehicles operating on a 24-hour basis, providing an inter-depot service for distribution and point-to-point delivery.

SERCO CEO, Clinton Holcroft, said City Logistics required high cube load bodies. SERCO offered the DryLiner body built using Protec steel facings and an injected foam core to provide a highly durable and lightweight panel construction.
“We were thus able to accommodate the customer’s requirements with the 8.25m and 8.8m bodies which were constructed at Serco’s Durban factory and handed over to City Logistics in August,” he said.

Fleet Director Anthony Naicker said City Logistics was pleased with the builds and looked forward to continuing growing the partnership with SERCO.

Timeline

  • 1981 Founded in Durban South Africa by Trevor Holcroft manufacturing small insulated bodies, vending carts and vehicle body repairs.
  • 1984 SERCO moved to larger premises and begins manufacturing trailers.
  • 1996 Clinton Holcroft joined the family business to help scale the business.
  • 1999 SERCO acquires Newline products in Cape Town.
  • 2002 SERCO opened in Johannesburg.
  • 2005 Clinton Holcroft appointed Managing Director.
  • 2014 SERCO appointed distributor for Whiting door products in Southern Africa.
  • 2016 SERCO introduced new panel press manufacturing technology with injected PU insulating foam and coated steel facings.
  • 2017 SERCO appointed distributor for LoadLok products in Southern Africa.
  • 2017 SERCO opens in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth).
  • 2019 Charl Coetzee appointed Managing Director; Clinton Holcroft appointed CEO; Trevor Holcroft becomes non-executive Chairman.
  • 2019 SERCO wins KZN Productivity SA awards.
  • 2019 SERCO receives Gold award at Automechanika Johannesburg for trailer thermal performance.
  • 2020 SERCO broadens product range to include more dry freight pantechnicon bodies.
  • 2021 SERCO reaches milestone of 40 years.

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