TANK-WELD Equipment is set to enter a ninth market in the Caribbean this year with exports of Shacman trucks and is already eyeing a tenth market in Central America to sell the Chinese-made trucks.
The company on Tuesday loaded its latest shipment of Shacman trucks for exports, a batch of seven trucks now en route for Guyana, and will next provide The Bahamas market with the trucks it imports from China.
"Booking for shipments are being made now. We anticipate [sending the first set of trucks to The Bahamas before] the end of January 2023; it will be two K3000 Reefer trucks," Chris Bicknell, chairman and CEO of the Tank-Weld Group, told the Jamaica Observer.
Bicknell said the company has sought and received approval to sell the trucks in Belize as well, but orders from that market are yet to be received. Prospective buyers of the trucks are expected in the island in the next few weeks to assess the trucks and place orders.
Tank-Weld now exports the Shacman trucks from its bonded warehouse in Kingston to the Cayman Islands, Barbados, St Vincent, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, St Lucia, and Grenada.
Since it exported the first truck to Grenada in September 2019, Tank-Weld has sold another 120 trucks to the eight islands it now ships trucks to from Jamaica. Barbados, which received 50 of the trucks from Tank-Weld, is the biggest market for the Shacman trucks in the Caribbean outside of Jamaica. Total sales of Shacman trucks in Jamaica have reached over 1,400 since Tank-Weld started selling the units three years ago.
"Certainly Jamaica has the lion's share of the market now but we have been expanding and based on the potential that we see for the other markets, I believe they can be just as robust as the Jamaican market is," Kirk Finnikin, sales manager at Tank-Weld Equipment, told the Caribbean Business Report.
The Chinese manufacturer had required the company, which initially sought the trucks for its own fleet, to sell 50 units per year.
"Then we scratched our heads and said, 'Can we ever do this?' Because the truck dealership business was new to us," Bicknell reflected. "Now we are setting sales records every month."
He said the sales have been so good, Shaanxi Automobile Holdings — the producer of the Shacman trucks based in the city of Xi'an, Shaanxi Province in China — has sent four technicians to live in Jamaica and work along with Tank-Weld Equipment's Shacman dealership to help with maintenance.
Bicknell, however, said when he initially went to buy Shacman trucks the thought then was not to start a dealership. It was simply to solve an issue the company was having with sourcing reliable trucks to transport the building materials sold by Tank-Weld Metals, the distributing arm of the Tank-Weld Group.
"It was new to us...but we knew the trucks were world class because we had tested them in our fleet before getting the dealership," Bicknell added.
Tank-Weld operates 100 Shacman trucks for itself, of which "70 are on the road at any given time".
"We had been with Mack trucks for 5o years and in comparison, these Shacman trucks are more affordable. And although the trucks are assembled in China, there are international components in them. They didn't try to copy and the drivers love them, and when drivers love a truck, that's when you know you have a really good product," he continued.
"Before, people who wanted trucks brought them in used — old trucks. Everybody in Jamaica could only afford second-hand trucks from the auctions. So we would go up to America and buy 20-year-old trucks just for affordability. We are not alone. Any haulage contractor will tell you that they had to live with the old 'bruck' down trucks for the past 5o years. Now you can buy a brand new truck for almost the same price."
"It has brought access and efficiency to the entire haulage sector, not just to Tank Weld, with a world-class truck that is affordable. Even now we are seeing new haulage contractors coming into business, existing ones expanding, companies buying new trucks that are making them more efficient, and banks running down our customers to lend them money. You ever heard of that? Never before," Bicknell said raising his voice slightly.
Clients for the trucks in Jamaica include the NSWMA, NWC, Jamaica Fire Brigade, mining operators and haulage contractors.
"I call it a revolutionising of the haulage sector in Jamaica, and the rest of the Caribbean is now experiencing it with Shacman."
The company said using Jamaica as the hub for exports to the Caribbean and some Central American countries cuts down delivery time from order if shipped from the factory (in China), which takes approximately 130 days. Getting the trucks from Jamaica cut that time down to between 30 and 45 days.
A bonded warehouse for parts is the next step forward, Tank-Weld told the Caribbean Business Report. That, it says, will allow for a very quick response time to export parts to the region using both air freight and sea freight.
However, Tank-Weld Equipment now carries all parts for the trucks and also does servicing from its Ferry Pen, Six Miles, St Andrew base.
"It has allowed new haulage contractors to enter the business, existing ones have expanded and companies have renewed their fleet," Bicknell pointed out.
Starting off with a few trucks because there was uncertainty about how the market would accept them, the company is now able to import 50 trucks at a time.
Trucks aside, Tank-Weld Equipment has also introduced forklifts and earth-moving equipment, which are Chinese brands as well.
Shantui, the earth-moving brand sold by Tank-Weld Equipment, and Hangcha, which is the forklift and warehouse equipment brand, are not only sold in Jamaica but are also exported.
So far, Tank-Weld Equipment has exported five Shantui earth-moving equipment and it has exported two of the Hangcha forklifts. Bicknell said as with the trucks, companies using the earth-moving equipment and forklifts would buy them second-hand in the US or Canada, but can now get them brand new for prices which are comparable to the used ones.
The company is also seeking new markets for those products in the Caribbean while it continues to seek approvals for sending the Shacman trucks to other islands not served by another Shacman dealership based in the Dominican Republic that serves some of the Spanish-speaking markets.
"We want to expand into as many of the islands as possible because we don't want trucking to remain the solved solution here in Jamaica alone; we want to share that solution with our neighbouring islands," Finnikin added.