Biltrans Services (Private) Limited commenced operations in 1997 following the collapse of the railway system in the Southern and Central regions of Sub Saharan Africa.
The situation afforded a market opportunity for transportation and freight management within the region for the timeous and safe movement of minerals, goods and other commodities.
An office and transport yard was set up in Harare, and Biltrans commenced its operations with a fleet of predominantly International used Trucks imported from the United States with tri-axle flat-deck trailers operating across Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi and Zambia at the time.
The requirement for facilities necessitated the opening of new yards in South Africa, Malawi (subsequently closed down in 2013 in order to minimize overheads) and Zambia to cater for our requirements, both from human resources and operational perspectives. These yards were located in Johannesburg, Blantyre and Lusaka. Subsequently, facilities at the border posts between the countries were established as well as at the port of Durban in South Africa.
It should also be mentioned that the Democratic Republic of Congo has become our main focus in recent years due to the rapid growth in the exportation of minerals from that region. We thus predominantly operate in and out of the DRC primarily on the back of Glencore where we are currently one of two approved transporters running their product in and out of the DRC since January 2015 to date.
Due to the restrictions in obtaining foreign currency for the day-to-day operations and the regular purchase of parts, fuel, toll fees and other expenses in Zimbabwe, it became necessary to open a South African company, namely Transhunt (Pty) Ltd in order to assist in remedying the situation.
Transhunt assists in the invoicing and collection of debtors, procurement of parts as well as assisting in the maintenance and turnarounds of the trucks in South Africa.
In 2005, mainly due to the inability to access finance in Zimbabwe, we decided to register a new company in South Africa called Westside Trading 375 (Pty Ltd) T/A Watt Africa to focus on smaller consolidated shipments between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
In 2007 we found the need to expand the flat-deck trailer business and once again, due to the lack of available finance in Zimbabwe, we formed another new company in South Africa by the name of Transaction Carriers (Pty) Ltd T/A TAC.
We decided to have a totally different model to the Transhunt / Biltrans fleet and bought 25 brand new Scania and Volvo trucks with super-link trailers operating on full maintenance contracts covering all countries to enable us to transit from South Africa through to the DRC. TAC currently runs over 100 vehicles on this model with the average ageing of the fleet being 2.9 years.
We found that depending on the available work that there was a definite requirement for both tri-axle and super-link trailers and hence the reason why we kept the Biltrans fleet pulling tri-axles and the TAC fleet pulling super-links.
In 2015 some shares in Biltrans were sold to an investor who already had a fleet of Freightliner Trucks pulling petroleum tankers and some tri-axle flat-deck trailers.
This operation is called Upman Services and it now run by Biltrans management on the exact same model as Biltrans as it is Zimbabwean registered.