MAN Lion’s Explorer Bus is the Pride of the Metro-KZT Fleet

With its head office in Phoenix, Kwa-Zulu Natal, the Metro Group of Companies is an icon of commuter bus transport in the province with a history dating back to the 1930s, when a young road transport pioneer, Mangaroo Jaipal used a horse and cart to move both people and freight across the hilly roads of Natal.

Today, his son, Ishwar Mangaroo (born in 1947), is managing director of the company which incorporates five associate companies, namely KZT Bus Services, Metro Bus Services, Combined Transport Services, KZT Country Cruiser and KZN Bus Service and has an affiliation with Duzi Bus Services. The Metro Group fleet numbers over 400 buses, 70% of which are the MAN brand. As one of MAN Truck & Bus SA’s key clients, Ishwar is passionate about his new Lion’s Explorer commuter buses, as he is about his relationship with the people who work at MAN Truck & Bus.

“MAN is my first choice of bus supplier to my Metro Group fleet because it is both a supplier and a manufacturer of chassis and bus bodies. This makes MAN the only ‘one-stop’ bus shop in the country, which makes my life a whole lot easier. Problems are sorted out immediately with almost zero downtime and, MAN personnel are very reasonable and competent people to deal with,” says Ishwar.

The latest MAN models in the Metro Group fleet are from the HB Lion’s Explorer range, specifically, the HB1, HB2 and HB4/310 derivatives. The Metro Group of Companies has taken ownership of 11 new MAN HB Lion’s Explorer buses in recent months, bringing the total number of MAN HB units in the fleet to 50 buses.

“The buses are all customised to meet the KZN Department of Transport specifications and are fitted with comfortable split-back seats, interior parcel racks and electronic destination signs. The flagship HB4 units are of the 6x2 axle configuration, with a rear drive and tag axle, and can therefore seat up to 79 passengers legally. The buses are fitted with manual, automated shift and fully automatic transmissions, which are proving to be very satisfactory for our drivers,” adds Ishwar.

The Metro Group transports over 15 000 commuters daily and obviously, passenger safety and comfort are paramount requirements in its day-to-day operations. The MAN HB4 bus model range is the safest bus in its class, equipped with EBS/ABS and ESR braking technology. The chassis are also fitted to air-suspension to all the axles including the rear hub-reduction drive axles, which not only offers a smoother ride but ensures that the bus keeps moving when the going gets tough in muddy off-road conditions. The high-intensity headlights offer greater driver visibility and the ZF Intarder adds greater braking efficiency, improving fuel consumption and passenger comfort on steep descents.

Cost predictability and vehicle reliability are cornerstones of any successful transport fleet and the MAN HB Lion’s Explorer comes with a class-leading three-year/200 000km warranty.

“These warranties are swiftly honoured by MAN because it is the manufacturer, unlike private dealerships which can take months to settle a warranty claim as they first need to consult with the OEM overseas. What’s more, our uptime is kept at optimum levels because our fleet is homogenised and we can interchange replacement parts between our respective MAN models. Our buses each travel between 4000 and 5000km per month and having fulltime MAN technicians at our Hammarsdale depot ensures our mechanical problems are kept to a minimum,” explains Ishwar.

With Metro’s drivers loving the ‘passenger car’ feel and their customers the coach-like comfort of the MAN HB series, Ishwar sums up his feelings on his relationship with MAN: “Commuter bus transport is a 100% people’s business and MAN views its customers the same way we do – as the number-one priority. We have direct and regular contact with MAN’s top management, particularly with Bruce Dickson and Gary Aliphon who are based in Pinetown, as well as Ray Karshagen, who makes monthly visits to our offices. We also work closely with MAN’s technical directors and body-building management, notably Wayne Powdrell and Mark Gouws, as well as all MAN staff at the MAN Dealership in Westmead. They understand our business intricately, supplying exactly what we need, which means we can give our customers what they need – reliable commuter transport that is safe, comfortable and affordable.”