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LAUNCH OF THE 50 NEW PUTCO BUSES

31 JANUARY MOLOTO ROAD

BY MR FRANCO PISAPIA-MANAGING DIRECTOR-LARIMAR GROUP

Honourable MEC Mamabolo: Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport

Honourable MEC Mashego: Department of Public Works Roads and Transport Mpumalanga

Executive Mayor Cllr Mtsweni: Thembisile Hani Local Municipality

MMC Poppy Msiza: Thembisile Local Municipality

Councillor Mr Johan Welmans: City of Tshwane Municipality

Executives of the Larimar Group and Senior Government officials

 

"Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for attending the launch of the 50 new Putco buses today. This is part of our annual fleet replacement programme to introduce new buses into our fleet. However, this has not been at the level that it should be, due to many factors outside our control. We remain optimistic that with proper engagement between the officials present here today, we will be able to reintroduce our bus replacement programme to levels that would allow us to significantly improve the quality of our service and reduce the number of breakdowns, which are sometimes caused by aging fleet.

A special thank you goes to; MEC Mamabolo and MEC Mashego for their continued support and sometimes chastising us to improve our service, ensure compliance and invest in road safety programmes. We also want to request the intervention of MECs in ensuring that permits are issued on time and for longer validity periods, to avoid impounding of buses, which are a huge inconvenience to our passengers.

Putco has been a big part of the Passenger Transport Industry and has evolved over the years, to embrace the transformation agenda and government road safety initiatives.

The face of ownership and management of the Larimar/Putco group has significantly changed to reflect the country’s demographics and ensure inclusivity. We employ more than 3500 people and the group is now 51% black-owned of which 27% are black women.

Larimar/Putco has been at the forefront of Black Economic Empowerment and in particular supporting women SMME operators for more than 10 years; our flagship project was with Gauteng Women in Transport, the first of its kind in the bus industry, where women operators were developed to actively run their own enterprise. They started with subcontracting five (5) buses and to date, they own more than 15 buses.

We are also mindful of the importance of Local Economic Development and as such have subcontracting partnerships with seven (7) bus companies; three (3) in Mpumalanga, operating 62 buses and four (4) in Gauteng, operating 39 buses. In addition, there are joint ventures with Lekoa, Ipelegeng and Asibemunye bus companies. Furthermore, we have contracted more than 15 SMMEs to provide ancillary services.

The Putco Foundation, as a responsible Corporate Citizen has also changed the focus from donating money to partnering with communities to support identified projects that are aligned to government priorities and the Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) of Municipalities.

The Foundation has provided bursaries to some of the students who studied medicine and engineering. We recently constructed a nursery school for the Zion Christian Church, built 21 houses in Mpumalanga at Thembisile Hani and Dr JS Moroka Municipalities. Furthermore, we donated three (3) Ambulances to the Department of Health in Mpumalanga, which are currently providing services to the community of Thembisile Hani Municipality. We are also proud to have been the transport sponsor for TS Galaxy Football club based in Mpumalanga, which won the 2019 Nedbank Cup.

MEC Mashego expressed concern that whenever Putco injects new buses into its fleet, communities in Mpumalanga are overlooked. However, we want to assure you that we have the interest of all our commuters at heart, and to that effect; We allocated 45 new buses in 2019 to service communities from Dr JS Moroka and Thembisile Hani Local Municipalities and today, we are allocating additional 30 buses to these two municipalities.

MEC Mamabolo, in 2019 we allocated a total of 11 buses to Soshanguve and today we are adding 20 new buses. Soweto received 10 buses in 2019.

Specifications

These buses are designed and built locally at the ISAW/Iveco plant in Rosslyn, Gauteng Province. The total value of parts and other components in the production of a bus is around 88% local content. This increases the manufacturing capacity in South Africa and contributes significantly to job creation.

The safety features include rollover protection which received a stamp of approval at the Gerotek testing facility.

It has emergency escapes through side windows and via escape hatches in the roof. Safety belts for the driver and the front passenger seats.

ABS brakes – Antilock Braking System for extra safety in wet weather conditions. Heaters fitted in buses to cushion passengers during cold winter conditions. Lastly the speed limit is electronically set to SA legal speed limits. The effects of climate change and the impact on the environment is mitigated by the development of Low-or Zero-emission standard buses with less fuel consumption.

Maintenance

The buses will be serviced, maintained and breakdown back-up service will be provided by accredited Iveco Dealerships throughout the country.

The introduction of these buses is in line with the commitment made to both MECs to improve the quality and reliability of our service, ensure that our passengers travel comfortably and to contribute positively to road safety initiatives.

We made a further commitment to train 50 drivers on advance driving techniques to improve their driving skills and ensure that they can handle driving in all road conditions. To date a total of 30 Putco drivers have been trained at Gerotek facilities; 10 from Greater Soweto and 20 from Tshwane Mpumalanga. Enhancing the driving performance of our drivers is an ongoing programme. It will go a long way in improving defensive driving skills, avoiding dangerous manoeuvring and reducing the accident rate on our roads.

MECs Mashego and Mamabolo we concur with the sentiment that one accident is one too many. However, we are pleased that since introducing our fleet monitoring programme with Altron Netsar, we have seen a change in driver behaviour and a reduction in unfortunate road accidents where Putco buses were involved, especially along the R573 -Moloto corridor.

In 2016/17, our buses were regrettably involved in 61 accidents and by the end of December 2019, the number had dropped significantly to 18. The number of fatalities has also decreased from 34 in 2013/14, to four (4) by end of December 2019. We will continue to implement preventative measures to reduce the carnage on our roads.

Putco has a fleet of 1300, transports more than 290 000 passengers daily, however our buses travel long distances from departure to destination points, sometimes on rough terrain. The cost of tyre replacement, body repairs and maintenance are extremely high.

We also experience a lot of theft and vandalism of our buses, including battery and diesel theft. This results in severe bus shortages, as we are unable to cover all shifts. This impacts the quality of service and affects commuters who are expected to arrive at their place of work daily and on time.

In the last three months, more than 20 suspects were arrested for various crimes including stealing batteries, diesel and vandalising our buses, by disconnecting bus components.

We would like to express our appreciation to the sterling work done by BKL Investigative Unit and the police in Mpumalanga, especially the Kwa-Mhlanga area.

We implore communities to be vigilant and report any suspected activities to the local police station.

We are committed to contributing positively to road safety initiatives.

Ke a leboga. Thank you"

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