Dress up any truck with a slick paint job, banks of bright lights, and gobs of chrome accessories and you’ll grab the attention of just about anyone anywhere you go.
In the US it’s common to see a truck taken from a simple cargo-hauling big rig to a rolling work of art but it costs really big bucks—the kinds of bucks that often are hard to come by in the freight world these days.
However, more truckers are choosing to take that “leap of chrome” —and not just to feed a hungry ego. A lot of small fleets, for example, the kind operating 15 to 50 trucks, can be found turning one or two of their tractors into glitzy “show models” as a way to reward veteran drivers and recruit new ones.
Others are finding that even a little bit of glam goes a long way in terms of getting the attention of customers. Turning their trucks into rolling calling cards of sorts appeals to a shipper’s pride in getting their freight pulled by such unique pieces of decorated aluminium and steel.
Taurus Bullbars have recently installed a Lind P3500 Maestro plasma machine, which was manufactured locally by Lind SA Automation. This is the company’s first major capital equipment purchase
Not so in South Africa. Little or nothing is spent on the aesthetic look except if the company is a ‘known’ brand or retailer.
However whether you have one truck, five or more, you know that it is crucial to keep your vehicles on the road to make money. Maintenance should be the number one priority but judging by news reports on the amount of trucks and busses involved in accidents on our South African roads with vehicles not being roadworthy, this is not so.
One area that is on the rise though is the fitting of bullbars and windscreen stone guards to these vehicles.
Some say that steel and aluminium bullbars fitted to vehicles (car, 4WD, truck or bus) are a design feature identified as significantly exacerbating the injury risk to pedestrians, cyclists and vehicle occupants alike. Their addition to the front of vehicles is seen as increasing a vehicle’s frontal stiffness and aggressiveness. A common feature is the use of bullbars on four-wheel drive vehicles and also typically on the front of heavy vehicles. These designs, because of their high stiffness, unyielding characteristics (not energy absorbing) and small contact areas, are the total antitheses of designs aimed at reducing injury risk particularly to vulnerable road users such as pedestrians.
The Lind P3500 Maestro plasma machine cutting plate. The machine can cut mild steel up to 25mm, stainless steel 12mm and aluminium 20mm
The argument will rage on depending what view you have. The main argument for fitting a bullbar to a vehicle presented by vehicle owners and bullbar manufacturers is to protect the vehicle against costly damage and in particular immobilisation via radiator damage in isolated remote areas in collisions with stray animals such as sheep or cattle or any other object such as a small shrub or small tree.
This argument is very valid in South Africa considering the areas that the cargo-hauling trucks have to travel to, both locally and across our borders. More and more you are seeing these vehicles fitted with bullbars and windscreen/stone guards. As result it is a manufacturing area that is growing.
Taurus Bullbars has been operating in this space for the last five years but as owner Mike Maree explained, “Effectively we have only been in operation for three years.”
A bullbar that has been powder coated
Mike became involved in the business almost by default when he purchased what remained of a company that had been attempting to manufacture bullbars from a family member.
“My main vocation in life was in the printing industry. After deciding to leave the industry in my early fifties I then worked with my sister in Cape Town helping her set up a plastic injection moulding business. Then this opportunity arose and I decided to give it a go.”
“The minor bullbar manufacturing business originally operated from rented premises, with a small turn-over and a handful of staff in the Alberton, Gauteng area.”
“It was a struggle in the beginning because of our lack of experience, knowledge and industry recognition. The bullbar industry is very competitive, and there is a lot of cheap, poor quality product available with little customer service.”
Bullbar components in the fettling area
“When times get tough, there’s a lot more demand for used and salvage parts,” he adds. “And when times get better, sales of new parts, begin to rise. We wanted to be in a position to serve both ends of the parts market but to keep business coming in during the early rough patch, so we concentrated on dealing directly with the panel beaters by offering them a quick turnaround.”
“After two years of growth and building up a reputation the company had a major setback in that after coming back from a holiday I found that most of my staff had left to set up their own business.”
“It was like starting from scratch again but David, my son who had joined the business after it had been operating for one year, and myself were determined that we were going to succeed.”
“We continued to service the panel beaters but we knew that if we were to grow the business we would have to start manufacturing our own product. This led us to dealing directly with the transport companies and only in the segment of commercial vehicles such as long haul and freight trucks. It is thanks to these clients that the company has grown rapidly and gone from strength to strength.”
“The aim now is to get a foothold in the OEM and dealer business.”
“When times get tough, there’s a lot more demand for used and salvage parts,” owner Mike Maree explained. “And when times get better, sales of new parts, begin to rise. We wanted to be in a position to serve both ends of the parts market but to keep business coming in during the early rough patch, so we concentrated on dealing directly with the panel beaters by offering them a quick turnaround.”
“Engineering a bullbar requires careful consideration of a number of factors to ensure it properly serves its purpose. Factors such as vehicle design, crush rate, air bag deployment, approach angles, accessory fitment, strength, weight and aesthetics. These factors are all incorporated into every bullbar that we manufacture before it enters production.”
“Fitting of bullbars can affect a vehicle’s aerodynamics and adds mass to the vehicle thus increasing fuel consumption and consequently pollution.”
“Each bullbar is specifically designed to complement the unique contours of individual vehicle models. This means that we can ensure the best possible fit, look and functionality for a particular vehicle. The majority are finished in a durable powder coat to further enhance the bar’s appeal.”
Taurus Bullbars has a significant amount of bar, tube and plate in stock. The company is reviewing its tube bending requirements. This and the laser work is still shopped out but it could soon be feasible that they bring these processes in-house
“However in recent times we have seen a surge in requests for polished stainless steel bullbars, which we also offer. The bling of chrome coating is optional.”
“There are standard designs and features but more often than not a transporter has his own idea of how he wants his bullbar to look. There are also new features such as advertising that we have to take into account. So the majority of the bullbars that we manufacture are custom designed.”
“An added service that we offer is that we are prepared to fit the bullbars insitu or on site. This helps the transporter to get his vehicle back on the road in a short space of time, again saving money.”
New high definition plasma machine
“As our reputation has grown, so the quantity of bullbars manufactured has increased. Production reached a point where it became necessary for us to assess the amount of processes that we were relying on being done outside. Essentially a bullbar is made up of plate and tube and we had reached the point where it became more cost effective to invest in a high definition plasma and process our own plate.”
Owner Mike Maree and his son David with the company’s sales representative Melany Lindeque in the middle
“This we have done and last month we installed a Lind P3500 Maestro, which was manufactured locally by Lind SA Automation.”
“The robustly designed gantry type machine comes with Hypertherm Edge Pro CNC controls and software, Hypertherm Arc Glide torch height control (single torch or multiple torches), Hypertherm HPR XD power source and is compatible with oxy-fuel torches.”
A Freightliner Cab fitted with a Taurus low profile bullbar
“Even if we had to treble the volume of bullbars that we currently manufacture the machine would more than accommodate our requirements. We are looking at filling this excess capacity by offering a plate cutting service. We are also reviewing our tube bending requirements. This and the laser work is still shopped out but it could soon be feasible that we bring these processes in-house as well.”
Other truck accessories
In its short history Taurus has additionally built up a reputation of supplying a range of other truck accessories. These include windscreen stone guards, which are available in both powder coated and chrome finish. “Not only do they add a bit of style to your truck, but they also add great protection to your windscreen,” says Mike.
Other accessories include the wheelnut and coded socket. The nut has a rotating washer that prevents aluminium rims from getting damaged when the nut is tightened. The socket slides over the wheelnut and is tightened by using a normal wheel spanner. The nuts and sockets are coded so that other sockets will not work on the anti-theft wheel nuts supplied.
An example of a chrome plated windscreen stone guard
Another example of a Taurus bullbar
Another example of a windscreen stone guard
Taurus manufactures fuel tank side skirts that are made of stainless steel and an anti-fuel siphon device that fits into the filler neck of the tank as well. The device has a “sieve” that prevents theft of diesel from the tank by siphoning. Units come supplied with a cap or in most cases the existing cap of the truck can be used.
Currently the company has a staff compliment of 25 and manufacture over 150 bullbars and 100 windscreen stone guards a month.
For further details contact Taurus Bullbars on TEL: +27 (11) 824 2714 or visit www.taurusbullbars.co.za